Hesperian Health Guides

What People Want from Toilets

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HealthWiki > A Community Guide to Environmental Health > Chapter 7: Building Toilets > What People Want from Toilets

Health is not always the main reason why people want improved sanitation. People also want:

  • privacy: A toilet can be as simple as a deep hole in the ground. But the need for privacy makes it important for a toilet to have a good shelter with a door. The best shelters are simple and are built from local materials.
  • safety: For a toilet to be safe it must be built well and in a safe place. If a toilet is badly built it can be dangerous to use. And if the toilet is far from the home, or in an isolated place, women may be in danger of sexual violence when they use it.
  • comfort: People will more likely use a toilet with a comfortable place to sit or squat, and a shelter large enough to stand up in. They will also be more likely to use a toilet that is close to the house and is sheltered from wind, rain, or snow.
  • cleanliness: If a toilet is dirty and smelly, no one will want to use it. Traditionally the job of low status people in the community, sharing the task of cleaning will help make sure that toilets are properly used and cared for.
  • respect: A well-kept toilet brings status and respect to its owner. This can be an important reason people spend the money and effort to build one.
illustration of the below: A woman leads a child to a sheltered pit toilet; a man pours water for a child washing his hands; a woman pushes a wheelbarrow; a mop and bucket; a cooking pot and covered container.
A safe place to relieve oneself (urinate and defecate)
A way to get
clean afterward
Turning urine and feces into a healthy resource
Making sure that toilets stay clean and safe
Food and water that is not contaminated by urine and feces