The International Centre for Journalists (ICFJ) is now recruiting for young journalists interested in covering health issues to attend and report on a conference in India in December 2018. Selected journalists will travel to Delhi for an orientation and to attend the 2018 Partners’ Forum, hosted by the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH) and the Government of India.
The Bamenda Main Market (in the city where I live) has approximately 5000 traders occupying about one thousand shops. The traders in the market and the thousands of people who shop there have access to just four toilets provided by the local council.
Some inner city apartments don’t have toilets and the tenants have to defecate in plastic bags, in nearby bushes or share pit toilets with their neighbors. Tenants who live in apartments furnished with water toilet facilities occasional have to resort to open defecation or going out of the security of their homes to look for toilets when their water supply fails. Officials at the Bamenda City Council admit that there are not enough toilet facilities for the city’s population.
According to the WHO, about 40 percent of the world’s population will be without access to basic sanitation by 2015 if current trends continue. Less than half of Cameroon’s population has access to improved sanitation facilities, according to UNICEF statistics .The lack of toilets forces people to defecate openly. Open defecation increases the risk of cholera, amongst other health challenges. It also poses a threat to the safety of women who for obvious reasons, need to go further afield to look for possible “toilets”.
The shortage or lack of toilets at home, offices and public places like markets has made life difficult for women and has resulted in increased incidents of harassment and assault against women. This lack of toilets compels women to go into dark street corners and isolated places to find some privacy to ease themselves. These places are often perfect hideouts for some men who wait to attack women.
Recently, two female cousins in the Indian village of Katra, in Uttar Pradesh were gang-raped and murdered while looking for a toilet. It shows how vulnerable Indian women are to sexual abuse when they do not have toilets in their homes. This however is not only an Indian problem.
According to UN statistics, around 1 billion people worldwide practice open defecation, using rivers, fields or other places to relieve themselves due to a lack of toilets. The practice contributes in the rise of sexual violence and harassment of women and girls, and increases health risks through the spread of diseases including diarrhea.
According to Nicholas Alipui, Director of Programmes at the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), “Ending open defecation is a human right and a matter of equity.”
Indeed access to sanitation and water are fundamental human rights. The abuse of these rights and the lack of these services endangers the lives of women
Despite my tendency to be one of those airy-fairy, happy New Year, new beginnings, think positive and the universe will reward you kind of people, a week into 2013 and I was feeling pretty pissed off.
The gang rape incident in India was one of the first incidents to jolt me out of my post holiday bliss. Reading articles of the mass protests after the death of the victim as a result of her injuries sent shivers down my spine. “Proud to be an Indian. Terrified to be an Indian woman,” their signs read.
More alarming has been the reaction by ‘godman’ Asharam, who, according to Times Live told his followers that, “This tragedy would not have happened if she had chanted God’s name and fallen at the feet of the attackers. The error was not committed by just one side.”
It’s the highly problematic ‘short skirt’ argument taking on a whole new dimension and while his words have since been condemned, they are shocking nonetheless. Terrified to be an Indian woman? How about ashamed to be a human being.
It was only a year ago that the mini-skirt harassment occurred at a Johannesburg taxi rank where two teenage girls were followed around relentlessly by a growing group of men, which eventually became a mob of about 50. The teenagers were humiliated and violently discriminated against. Four years before that Nwabisa Ngcukana was attacked and sexually assaulted. The reason? She was wearing a mini-skirt. Like in India, these incidents have been condemned by governmental leaders but it stinks of too little too late. Why are we only intervening after the fact?
While the focus is on India at the moment, South Africa doesn’t get to escape the focus of frustration. The news has been littered with rape stories just a few days into the New Year. Women in their seventies and eighties have been raped. A student waiting in line to register for university has been raped. Is there any end to this madness?
Some may call this a feminist rant. If being horrified by these things makes one a feminist, then one damn well hopes every single person on this planet starts redefining their identity to include the ‘f’ word in it.
“I just want to sleep,” Laurie Halse Anderson writes in Speak , “A coma would be nice. Or amnesia. Anything, just to get rid of this, these thoughts, whispers in my mind. Did he rape my head, too?”
The world might not have ended in December, but one wonders what the hell we’re actually preserving here.