World Toilet Day – making a difference

cfw  By Senator the Hon Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Minister for International Development and the Pacific; and

R Wheen  Rosie Wheen, Chief Executive, WaterAid Australia

On 19 November, take a moment to think about the 4.5 billion people who live without a household toilet that safely disposes of their waste. Even better, get inspired to do something about it.

Access to adequate sanitation is pivotal to health, education and economic inclusion. This is especially true for women and girls. Australia is committed to doing something about it.

The Australian aid program’s flagship better sanitation initiative is the Civil Society Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Fund. The Fund supports 13 civil society organisations to deliver 29 projects to improve water, santiation and hygiene conditions for those who need it most. These projects will deliver direct benefits to 3.5 million people, across 19 countries, including seven in the Pacific, by mid-2018.

Thanks to the Fund, WaterAid Australia is working in Timor-Leste to give nearly 150 communities better water, sanitation and hygiene access. In Timor-Leste, rural women carry a high work burden, often carrying water long distances. A lack of toilets exposes women and girls to disease, harassment and attack. These issues can mean girls are unable to attend school and women are kept out of economic and public life. The results are dire: women’s literacy is significantly lower than men’s.

Through its projects, WaterAid helps communities – particularly women – to understand and manage sanitation and water supplies. The impact of this work is felt far and wide. Mana Laranjeira, a mother from Liquica municipality says: “I’m amazed with my husband after [the gender] sessions that talked about equal work between men and women. It’s not a dramatic change yet, but without talking much he starts taking one or two responsibilities. He is also looking after our children more often.”

Nearby in Eastern Indonesia, Plan International Australia is supported by the Fund to work with local governments and the private sector to help communities achieve total sanitation: no more open defecation, good hygiene is practised, household water is treated and waste is properly managed. Given the lack of affordable and good quality toilets, Plan also trains locals to meet their community needs. One example is mother of two, Agnes Jenie Ngganggus, who thanks to Plan training is now the most sought after toilet pan manufacturer in the Province. She is now a successful entrepreneur.

On this World Toilet Day, we know the challenge is still enormous. We are working hard to help improve the lives of millions and making great strides through our programs. You can help too – consider a donation to one of the many civil society organisations helping to link communities to safe toilets. A full list of organisations is available on the Fund’s website. Further information about Australia’s aid in water, sanitation and hygiene can be found on the DFAT website.


Senator the Hon Concetta Fierravanti-Wells has been the Minister for International Development and the Pacific since February 2016.

Rosie Wheen is the Chief Executive of WaterAid Australia, and has worked for the organisation since its inception in 2004. Rosie has worked in international development for 20 years including in a range of education and community development projects in Indonesia and Timor-Leste.


One thought on “World Toilet Day – making a difference

  1. Ms My Nguyen

    Hi Rosie,
    It is great to hear of your work on water, sanitation and hygiene. Myself, a woman engineer with education and degrees in Chemical engineering and BioTechnology, have worked in “high-tech” area for many years in Australia, but in the last 5-7 years have focused instead on “low-tech” solutions, in particular on composting toilets for lower environmental impacts. I have registered my services for the New Colombo Plan program as myself was Colombo Plan scholarship holder. I hope to link my work with yours to benefit people in disadvantaged position.

Leave a Reply