‘Does it cost £60 to build a toilet…?’
It’s a question we hear a lot, especially on our stands at summer festivals.
The short answer is ‘yes’. But the long answer is much more interesting. Got a moment…?
When you donate £60 to Toilet Twinning (thank you), you are not paying for a latrine slab and a pit: you are in fact lighting the touch paper to a slow-burning revolution.
The safe latrine on your certificate is in fact the end result of a process that transforms the entire community. It’s a process that takes time but it’s well worth the wait, as our short film from Nepal
Our partner in Nepal, Share and Care, could just drive into a village with a 4x4 loaded with materials and experts. They could just build toilets for people and drive off again. But they don’t, for very good reasons.
In fact, they start by bringing villagers together in workshops and encouraging them to join action groups focused on issues that concern the community, such as farming. Gently, they plant the idea that change is possible – and that change rests in the community’s hands.
Slowly, sensitively, they encourage communities to allow women to have a say in household decisions, often for the first time. It’s women and children who carry the heaviest burden in terms of collecting water and caring for the family – yet they often have no voice.Then, Share and Care bring men and women together in small committees to look at water and sanitation. And it’s then, when trust is established and confidence is growing, that they start to talk about the link between health and sanitation…
For many, this is a revelation, a light bulb moment. Many simply have never known why diarrhoea lays them low during the rainy season. They have never understood why their children have fallen ill or died.
Suddenly, they understand. And when that light comes on, they want a latrine. And they want to be the authors who rewrite the community’s future.
So then it’s the family, generally, who build their own latrine. So they have the dignity of providing for themselves – and ownership of what they’ve built.
A family who have understood the need for a latrine and been empowered to build their own are much more likely to use it and look after it. (That’s what sustainability is all about.)
Bishwo, whom you’ll meet in our short film
, is a great example. He had never understood why his mother and daughter had had to be hospitalised in Kathmandu with diarrhoea-related illnesses – until Share and Care taught him about the link between health and sanitation.
Then, he didn’t hesitate to sell two of his goats to be able to pay for a permanent latrine. He was so proud that he held an open day so his community could come and see for themselves – and even try it out.
Now, the only infection spreading is enthusiasm for latrines. Several neighbours have built their own.
As Bishwo says, ‘This toilet is my guarantee of reaching old age now.’ That’s what your £60 pays for.
We believe strongly that education is the key to ending poverty. When people have knowledge, they can make informed choices about their lives. And bring about change for the long term.
In some places, of course, this approach isn’t possible. So in conflict areas (such as parts of the DRC) or places hit by a natural disaster (such as cyclone-damaged areas of Bangladesh), we have to ‘go operational’.
That’s when our founder charity, Tearfund, send in people with water and sanitation expertise to dig wells and build latrines. They still run hygiene education workshops for communities where they’re working, to ensure that people understand the need for handwashing and keeping clean. This is sometimes how we have to work to save lives, but we’d rather not start from there.
We believe that working with local organisations, with communities, to educate, equip and empower households to find their own way out of poverty is far better. (In development circles, it’s known as community-led total sanitation.)
It works, it lasts and it’s far more cost-effective.
Which brings us back to the original question… ‘Does it cost £60 to build a toilet?’
In communities hit by disaster or conflict where we ‘go operational’, the cost of providing a latrine is far higher than £60. In places where we work through local organisations, the cost is lower. Overall, the average cost per household for a water and sanitation programme – across the 25 countries where Tearfund work – is about £60.
So, as you can see, your £60 goes far further than just digging a latrine: that’s just the bit we can show in the photo on your certificate. In fact, your money sparks an amazing chain reaction that is changing entire communities for ever. One light bulb moment, one latrine at a time.