One billion people around the world do not have access to a toilet, and are forced to go out in the open. 

Having to defecate openly infringes on human safety and dignity. This holds particularly true for women and girls, who loose privacy and face shame having to defecate in public, or – after painfully holding their bladder and bowels all day – risk attack by waiting until night falls. 

Since 2000, the world has been working towards ending open defecation by improving access to toilets through the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. However, significant progress, particularly that of which is equitable, is still needed. 

As highlighted in most recent progress reports, numerous inequalities in access to toilets exist. Urban areas gain, and have significantly more access to services than rural. Nine out of 10 people defecating openly live in rural areas. Within urban and rural areas, the wealthy have disproportionately greater access to toilets than impoverished populations. Not stopping there, disparities in access exist between religious, ethnic, and other identifiable groups, with disenfranchised groups seeing less access to services. 

Where toilets do exist, additional inequalities present in usability. Toilets generally remain inadequate for populations with special needs, such as the disabled and elderly, and women and girls requiring facilities to manage menstrual hygiene. Without accessible toilets for these populations, they remain excluded from opportunities to attend school and gain employment.

Photo credit: Creative commons Ram Heddy