Hesperian Health Guides

Hesperian Health Guides

Choosing the Right Toilet

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HealthWiki > A Community Guide to Environmental Health > Chapter 7: Building Toilets > Choosing the Right Toilet



Choosing the right toilet

No toilet is right for all situations, and each sanitation method has room for improvement. This activity helps people think about what toilets are available and decide which one is best for them.

Time: 1 to 2 hours

Materials: small drawing paper, large drawing paper, colored pens or markers, sticky tape

  1. Make groups of 5 or 6 people. Each person draws a picture of every toilet or way of disposing of human waste that they know. They should draw their own toilets, others they have seen, and even pictures of what people do where there is no toilet. The goal is to draw a range of toilets, from the most simple to the most modern.
  2. When the pictures are ready, each group arranges their pictures in order, from what they think are the worst methods to the best. These are taped to large sheets of paper.
  3. Each group shows its drawings and tells the reason for the order they chose. What makes one system better and another worse? Each group member also tells which toilet he or she uses at home, and which he or she would like to have.
  4. After everyone has shown their drawings, the group talks about the differences between all the methods. Ask questions such as:
    • Does everyone agree about which toilet is the worst and which is the best?
    • Is there one toilet that seems best to everyone? Is this because of health reasons, cost, or for some other reason?
    • Are there some toilets that no one in the group uses? Why?
    This can lead to a discussion of the reasons for people’s choices.
    • What health benefits are most important?
    • What environmental benefits are most important?
    • Would any of the improvements people want require changes in local conditions or how people think about sanitation? Are there simple things that can be done to improve what already exists?
    • If the group includes both men and women, are their answers different?
  5. Introduce other toilets that people may not know about. This may include small changes to their current toilets such as vent pipes, or a new type of toilet. (It may include all the methods in this book, and others you may know of.) The group discusses these new ideas.
  6. Lead a discussion about the different methods, asking the group to think about the questions in the chart below. Each person shares his or her opinion about the benefits and shortcomings of each toilet, using numbers to show how strongly he or she feels. For example, 5 may mean the best and 0 may mean the worst. Mark each person’s opinion on the chart and count to see which method is judged best.

  7. The group makes new drawings based on the discussion of benefits and the new methods they have learned about. They tape the new and old drawings to large sheets of paper in order from worst to best. Finally, they compare the new order of the methods to the earlier order they had chosen.
    a group of men and women sit and talk.
    Communication between men and women is an important part of choosing safe and healthy toilets.
    • What differences are there?
    • What ideas or information caused people to change their minds about what toilets are worst and best?
    Based on this discussion, the group can decide what toilet or improvement is best for them.


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