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Leaving no one behind

Leading the way towards equality
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Photo: WaterAid/ Basile Ouedraogo

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May 16, 2017
Meet the inspiring women leading the way towards equality and accessibility for all… via the nearest toilet.

Imagine you couldn’t go to your own kitchen sink for a glass of water or couldn’t find a private place to go to the toilet when out shopping. How would you feel? Frustrated? Embarrassed? Undignified?

For many of us, when we’re feeling thirsty we reach for the tap and when nature calls we head to the nearest bathroom.

But for those of us with disabilities, often things aren’t so easy. A lack of accessible taps and toilets can turn simple, necessary tasks into a daily struggle.

And in countries around the world where taps and toilets aren’t available to all, people with disabilities face an even greater challenge.

However, progress is being made. We’re celebrating the resourceful, determined and courageous people who are helping to transform lives by making water and sanitation services accessible to all.

Complete piece of mind

“Life with a disability isn’t easy at all. There are many things that people with a disability like me can’t do.”

Justine lives in Dissin, Burkina Faso. She makes and sells baskets for a living, but wishes she was able to do more.

Photo: WaterAid/ Basile Ouedraogo

“There are some who are able to brew local beer to sell and those who work in trade. When you have a disability, if you don’t have the support of people with good will your life is almost impossible here.”

Justine wheels herself around the community using a tricycle, but until recently there wasn’t an accessible toilet she could use, so she had no choice but to go outside in the bush.

“For a woman it wasn’t safe to go alone,” she tells us. “At night, I didn’t dare go far because of fear of harassment, attack or even rape. This never happened to me but I knew it was possible.”

Working with WaterAid’s local partners VARENA ASSO, Justine helped to build new accessible latrines in Dissin — meaning she and other people with disabilities in her community can now go to the toilet comfortably and in private.

“Now I can relieve myself in the latrine with complete peace of mind, with privacy and without the fear of being seen by passers-by.”

‘No one is embarrassing me’

Sarah is the caretaker of a disabled-friendly latrine in Paynesville, Liberia. Both she and her husband are blind.

It was difficult for Sarah to use Paynesville’s old latrine because it was open to the entire community. Everyone used it, so it became dirty very quickly and would get flooded when it rained. At times Sarah’s children had to take her there to make sure it was safe for her to use.

Photo: WaterAid/ Ahmed Jallanzo

But with the new disabled-friendly toilet built by WaterAid’s local partners United Youth for Peace, Education, Transparency and Development in Liberia, Sarah has the chance to live with more privacy and dignity.

“I like the place because no one is embarrassing me. It was difficult for me to use the old toilet because it was open to the public,” she says.

“I am happy because I am no longer getting affected by infection and paying money for treatments. I can now save some money to do other things.”