The #TalkToilet campaign, with its primary goal of raising awareness about public toilets in Nepal, began its first phase in March and has included extensive research about the status of public toilets within Kathmandu Valley and along Nepal’s highways. With a focus on ensuring inclusive sanitation, the campaign advocates for women’s needs, including sanitary pad dispensers, disposal machines, diaper-changing stations, and clean water in cubicles, as well as accessibility for people living with a disability.
Achieving female-friendly toilets is rooted in including them when planning infrastructure. Coordinated efforts and clear policies are crucial for Nepal to meet its sanitation goals. WaterAid Nepal, in collaboration with governmental bodies, has emphasized the need to establish public toilet guidelines for highways nationwide. In response, Lalitpur Metropolitan City has stated that they are actively working on their Local Level Public Toilet Guidelines. Since gender inclusivity is a major aspect of inclusive toilets, the tour also highlighted the need for gender-neutral toilets. Bhumika Shrestha from the Blue Diamond Society emphasized the need to distinguish toilets or cubicles that focus on gender neutrality rather than constructing a separate one.
According to the survey as part of the campaign, only 1 in 30 toilets along Nepal’s highways offered affordable menstrual products, and none had proper disposal systems. Dignified menstrual hygiene is a human right, and although places like petrol pumps are mandated by regulations, they often fall short in even basic cleanliness and amenities of the toilets. Newly constructed electric vehicle charging stations that serve as resting areas due to fairly long charging times, saw people resorting to open urination. Even in this, women are disproportionately affected since the probability of UTIs and the perceived loss of dignity is much higher for them when resorting to open urination or defecation.
The #TalkToilet tour, organized on 18th December from Gongabu Bus Park to Naubise, featured four different types of toilets: government-owned and leased, eatery-owned, privately constructed, and those at petrol pumps. Despite the availability and varied sanitary practices, sanitation deficiencies persist in each category. The campaign bus tour took governmental stakeholders to these toilet locations to show the current status. Among those on the bus tour were the Mayor of Chandragiri Municipality, the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Dhunibesi Municipality, police personnel, and others.
The government stakeholders encouraged the caretakers to exert more effort regarding sanitary habits. Clean toilets around eateries and petrol pumps not only contribute to good sanitary practices but also play a crucial role in customer growth. However, during the survey, many caretakers have stated that they do not have access to adequate resources to maintain a standard of sanitation.