Bangladesh. Sukurbanu, 65, has lived in Rupnagar slum, in Dhaka, since her childhood. She uses a hanging toilet – a platform built over water – from which she recently fell. She says she often suffers from illnesses that she believes are caused by using these toilets. She lives with three daughters, who face long queues to use the toilets before they go to work in the mornings.
According to the United Nations, 2.5 billion people do not have access to proper sanitation, including toilets, with dramatic consequences on their health, dignity and security, the environment, and social and economic development. To mark World Toilet Day on 19 November, photographers from Panos Pictures have been working with Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) to produce an exhibition that documents women and girls with their toilets, showing the effect this has on their lives. Globally, 526 million women are forced to go to the toilet in the open – often facing physical threats and violence as they are forced to wait until after dark before leaving their houses.
Australia. Renee is an artist who left her former home in the densely populated suburbs of Sydney to live a quieter life in bush surrounds, a one-hour drive north of the city. She has built a shed on ten acres of land and has included an outside toilet and bathroom. Ironically, Renee is able to enjoy total privacy out in the open as she is surrounded by wild bush and forest, far from other houses. (Photo by Warren Clarke/WSUP/Panos)
Brazil. Isabela, 33, lives alone in a penthouse in Rio de Janeiro. She has an MBA in environmental law and works as a fine artist. “My toilet means comfort to me. But I know what is behind it: water supply, sewerage, pollution of lakes and oceans.
“The fact is that I do like to have a good shower, and for a Brazilian girl like me, it means at least 10 minutes of clean water being wasted. It’s a privilege. I have a clean water supply, hot water and a comfortable toilet seat.”
Ecuador. Fabiola, 69, lives in Cumbayá, a valley near Quito. Between the ages of seven and 21, she shared a toilet with 20 other people, who lived in her condominium. Now she lives in a large apartment, which has five bathrooms. Her bathroom is the biggest one and she is very proud of it as her current situation contrasts vividly with her childhood. (Photo by Karla Gachet/WSUP/Panos)
Ethiopia. Meseret, a restaurant manager in Addis Ababa, shares a one bedroom government house with her two children, two sisters and mother. She was widowed nine years ago when her husband was shot during the aftermath of the 2005 elections. Her shared toilet is a long way away so at night, for safety, the family use the side yard next to their house. (Photo by Petterik Wiggers/WSUP/Panos)
Ghana. Ima, 47, is a public toilet attendant in Kumasi, Ghana’s second largest city. She lives in a rented room with her husband and four children aged 14-22. She is a very dedicated worker and relies on the income from her job to fund her children’s education. She does not have a toilet at home. During the day, she uses the public toilet where she works, but at night she is forced to use plastic bags as it is not safe to walk long distances in the dark. (Photo by Nyani Quarmyne/WSUP/Panos)
Haiti. Martine is 27 years old. She lives near a river in Cayimithe. “I don’t have an enclosed toilet. My toilet is a hole in the ground by my house, which is now full and has become really dangerous. I only use it at night when I can have some privacy. In the day time, I use a community toilet which is about 15 minutes away from my house”. (Photo by Shiho Fukada/WSUP/Panos)
India. Sangita, 35, moved to Delhi City 10 years ago. Before that she lived in a village where she used to go to the toilet in the fields, and says she felt ashamed of it. This made her adamant that she would have her own toilet in Delhi. (Photo by Atul Loke/WSUP/Panos)
Japan. Eiko, 61, lives in Tokyo. “Since this department store is close to my home, I often come here for shopping. When I was a child, the public toilets were not clean and smelled bad, but every time I use the bathroom here, I feel so relaxed. I could spend many hours here!” The department store’s toilet, called the “switch room”, is a special place where people can switch their mood and feel relaxed. The toilets are an extreme example of good sanitation and have features like surround sound music and heated seats. In the ‘powder room’ next to the toilets, Eiko can charge her mobile phone, watch TV and have a foot massage, turning a basic daily function that we all have to do into a pleasurable and multisensory experience. (Photo by Noriko Hayashi/WSUP/Panos)
Kenya. Eunice is the Co-Founder of Kasarani Academy in Naivasha. Previously, the school only had two toilets which were used by 250 pupils. Tenants living nearby used the toilets as well and left them in a poor condition. Because of this, Eunice found that the children preferred to practice open defecation in the grounds around the school, which quickly became a public health issue. Eunice and her husband Paul have now invested in child-friendly toilets. These tiny toilets have prevented adults using them as they cannot fit through the doors. “Parents will enrol their children here because of our child friendly toilets”. (Photo by Frederic Courbet/WSUP/Panos)
Mozambique. Flora, 19, is a high school student. She lives in Chamanculo C in Maputo with her mother, sister and niece. She shares a toilet with several other families living nearby. “I hate using the toilet. Sometimes men peek over the fence. There is no privacy.” (Photo by James Oatway/WSUP/Panos)
Romania. Pana, 49, lives in Buzescu. Like almost half of the Romanian population, she lives in the countryside where there is no running water or sewerage supplied by the municipality. Pana does have a toilet inside her house, but it is used only by her nephews when they visit. She uses the outside toilet, even in the winter. (Photo by Petrut Calinescu/WSUP/Panos)