Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Battle of Water-Loo

Two years back, I met a mom who moved her son to a different school only because the previous school did not have decent toilet facilities. While there were enough toilets and in good condition, they ran out of water quite frequently. Now, we are not talking about some corporation school here. This is a fairly well known middle class+ school. The boy (who was only 5 yrs at that point of time) stopped drinking water so that he doesn't have to go to the toilet.
"I want him to be healthy first - studies can come later" was her opinion.

Recently I was talking to a bunch of older kids (10 yrs+) and they said something similar. They avoided drinking water so that they don't have to go to a dirty toilet.

"Thank god PT is the last period. After playing we'll feel so thirsty and we have to drink lots of water, since it is the last period, we can come back home.."
"It really stinks and during intervals it is so crowded"
 and apparently the teacher would, "say something in front of the whole class if we want to go during class, it will be embarrassing"

This again is a fairly sought after school. I can't believe that schools that take so much money in the name of fees should have such poor facilities. Wonder why most parents don't think this important enough to take up during PTA meets.

I've always wondered why women in particular consumed very little water during the day. Most women I know drink less than a litre per day which is abysmally low. Some of them atleast push themselves consciously to drink more but it takes a lot of effort.
I can't help but attribute this to poor public toilet facilities in our country. I've noticed that even some shops do not have such facilities - when I asked the female staff what they do when they have to use the loo, she simply said that they 'finish the business before leaving home'! Imagine the plight of these women when they have their periods! Or for that matter even a stomach upset.
And another shop which was in a shopping complex had the loo on the terrace and again the women never ventured up there since men were always hanging out there. Men obviously pee where they like so they are hardly affected.

I'm remeinded of a social research project that I did many years back. This was among the tea leaf pickers in rural Ooty. I was shocked to learn that it is a taboo for women to go too many times during the day. It apparently means, 'lack of control/ discipline' on the woman's part - they have to 'finish the job before sunrise'. An older woman then told me that if they have to go while at work, they have to go into the forest (the thickets nearby) since there are no toilets and it is not safe for women to stray away from the group and wander off alone. I guess it was the women's way of conditioning to save themselves from bigger dangers. This was almost 10 years back and I hope things have changed for good now... though I wonder...

On a lighter note, recently when I visited a public loo, I was really surprised to find it very clean only to realise later that the door doesn't lock!


girlsguidetosurvival said...

In 30 years nothing really changed. I studied in one of the nation's best school chain but toilets especially for women was always an issue. While in highschool even tried to run for school senate on the status of women's toilet and drinking water but lost against the sports equipment for boys.

Came to University the situation wasn't any different. The day scholars ran to hostels, I guess half my classmates were friends with me for this reason, I was a hosteler.

10 years back as a project officer convinced the executive to release money for building toilets in NEP (Non formal education program) in rural Rajasthan. When went to inspect the construction, the villagers had constructed a wall in W shape behind the school no door no privacy that was the toilet for girls. Felt like banging my head in that wall...

12/12/10DeleteUndo deleteReport spamNot spamGirl Desi -

You are right women are conditioned to control their bodies and occupy as little possible space. This is a way to let them know, they have no right to be outside homes, they need not be even on the phase of earth.

Desi Girl

Asha said...

This is a serious issue and every concerned parent has to take it up in the PTA meet.

sudha murthy infosys foundation trustee intialised the nirmal bangalore project which built 100's of public toilets on roadsides , but this too lacks maintenance.

Uma said...

Desigirl - We have a way of trivialising such issues on hygiene, I don't know why! I heard a colleague who moved from a top academic institution say that one of the best things about being in corporate world is decent toilets!! Imagine, if this is the scenario with reputed urban institutions, what would be the condition in rural areas..

Asha - Glad taht someone is making a move atleast to provide some facilities... some step toiwards improvement

யாரோ said...

Very true..

Parents never think its necessary to know about the condition of the school's toilet.

I know of a kid who couldnt stand the dismal condition of the toilet & refused to go to school.

Sadly she was misunderstood by her own parents!

Uma said...

Yaaro - That's sad! We somehow seem to trivialise such things..

apu said...

oh, absolutely. schools, regardless of what they charge, don't think this is an important issue. I remember a girl who used to live quite close to school and used to go home for lunch everyday and to use the loo - the rest of us could only envy here. and yes, I have noticed that shops/commercial complexes rarely make arrangements for the staff. ugh.

Uma said...

apu - in the long run, it actually affects the kidney .. stone formation etc. and not drinking enough water has its own repercussions as we all know very well... I guess we all have bigger issues to fight and this falls lower in the list of priorities...