"Talk Toilets" Break Down The Taboo!

Long-held silence over the taboo subject of toilets is taking its toll on global health and as a result basic sanitation needs are suffering because no one wants to discuss what they perceive as a disgusting topic. But in reality, just think and imagine for a few seconds being without a toilet, what would you do and where would YOU go?

Despite the fact that The United Nations General Assembly declared the year 2008 as the International Year of Sanitation. More active action on a global participation on the issue of sanitation needs to be taken by Governments, Public and Private Sectors.

The 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDG) state that 2.6 billion of the six billion people on the Earth today do not have access to safe and hygienic toilets, and have slated a target that toilets should be provided to half of those people by 2015 and to all by 2025.

Take active action and break the Toilet Taboo. Help us raise awareness so people can take action to help empower people who need basic sanitation and to accelerate progress towards the MDG target and build toilets in Punjab, India and around the world.

Make a Toilet Wish Come True!

Whatever You Can Do Or Dream You Can, Begin It. Boldness Has Genius, Power and Magic In It! - Goethe

The Punjab Lioness Toilet Foundation is a private family non-profit dedicated to creating awareness and solutions for the global sanitation issues. Our mission is to:

1) Provide awareness of sanitation issues in India and around the globe.

2) Empower Indian families including Sikhs to take ACTION (Seva - selfless service) on their own part to provide sanitation to people in their respective Indian villages from where they migrated.

3) Connect people to the right information and resources who can help them build sanitation solutions in India or around the world.

Please review the short video's on the right by the Sulabh Social Service Organization in India and see the fantastic work they are doing, and in the hope that the stories might touch your hearts please take action and help with this initiative. Visit them in Delhi on your next trip and stop by their World Toilet Museum!

To all fellow Sikh's take action and build toilets in your own villages. You know the families that need sanitation, help them directly. This is True Seva (Selfless Service) as mandated by our founding Sikh Guru's.

If you are proud of your respective Indian villages, I urge you to make a difference. Visit your Punjab village schools and make sure they have sufficient toilet facilities and be conscious of the living standards of less fortunate individuals near your home in India and see where you can make a difference. One family at a time, lets Make a Toilet Wish Come True and collectively help resolve the Sanitation problem in Punjab, India.

Sanitation is India’s biggest problem. 700 million people have no toilets in their homes. In slums, there are no toilets. A huge Indian population has to use open areas to answer nature’s call. India today has nearly ten million bucket toilets that are manually cleaned by scavengers. We cannot let his continue. 700,000 children die every year due to diarrhea and dehydration caused by poor hygiene. Many schools in rural India do not have toilets and this is one of the main reasons why girls dropout from school once they cross the primary level. Can we let this continue? Collectively, one family at a time, let’s make a difference in Punjab, India.

The Punjab Lioness Toilet Foundation is more than just building toilets. It is about self realization of why we are all here on this planet. If we can not help one another in times of need then what is the purpose of life? This is about GIVING BACK DIGNITY TO LESS FORTUNATE INDIVIDUALS AND ESPECIALLY FEMALES. Punjabi families are very strong willed and can collaborate together very quickly in times of need, it is part of our Sikh culture to help and give back to society. Join the initiative and help provide a toilet to families in your villages today.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Punjab Lioness First Toilet Project in India!

I am pleased to announce the first Punjab Toilet project by the Punjab Lioness Foundation completed. Construction of 10 composting toilets were provided for families in the village of Chak Hakim, near Phagwara, India. Pictures of the project show the construction of a 2 pit composting design with a free standing enclosure which contains a squat down pour and flush toilet that only uses 2 liters of water! The cost of each toilet is $300 Canadian dollars.

Architectural Drawing of Composting Solution:


Contact Sulabh Social Service Organization for your own village needs or email Mandip at punjabtoilets@gmail.com or via Contact Web Form at www.unitedstarminds.com

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Official Launch of the Canadian Toilet Organization!



The Canadian Toilet Organization's official launch was hosted at the United Nations University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada on 21st, October 2008 see www.inweh.unu.edu

As a founding member I am pleased to announce the official launch of the Canadian Toilet Organization (CTO) (www.canadiantoilet.org) a non-profit organization which is the Canadian Chapter of the World Toilet Organization. The CTO is focused on creating awareness of sanitation issues in Canada (yes, you will be surprised but Canada has sanitation issues of it's own!) and also focuses on international development projects, the first initiative being the Punjab Lioness Project undertaken in the village of Chak Hakim, near Phagwara, Punjab, India. I was invited to present my Punjab project at the United Nations University.

Picture of me with Jack Sim, President of World Toilet Organization during a visit to see the "Sitting Pretty" Guelph Museum Toilet Exhibit. Full story in the Guelph Tribune.

Friday, June 13, 2008

India Trip - Toilets, Manure, Power and Liberation!

During our recent trip to India in May 2008, my husband and I made an interesting trip to the Sulabh International Social Service Organisation in Delhi to find out more about their toilet designs and the cost to deploy toilets in villages in the State of Punjab. We were warmly greeted by Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak the founder and his team. The purpose of our trip was to inspect the Sulabh Shauchalaya-technology, which we are convinced is technologically appropriate, socially and culturally acceptable and more importantly economically affordable for everyone in India to have a toilet. The toilet requires only TWO litres of water to flush and can function even where there is not sufficient water available. The toilet design does not require the service of scavengers nor does it pollute air and as a bonus it provides manure and power! The toilet technology can be cleaned and easily maintained by house-owners themselves. The two pits work alternately. The toilet technology can be easily upgraded i.e. can be easily connected to a sewer system when it is introduced in the area. See below for detailed pictures of our tour. The Government of India, State governments, various national, bilateral and international agencies like UNICEF, WHO,UNDP / World Bank etc have accepted that Sulabh Shauchalaya (twin pit pour-flush toilet) is the most appropriate low-cost technological option available today. They have suggested the adoption of this system in India and other developing countries. The Government of India has included low-cost sanitation as a component in the Integrated Development of Small and Medium Towns (IDSMT) Programme. The Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO) has also started giving financial assistance for low-cost sanitation to various categories of beneficiaries. Sulabh is not just about toilets it is a leading non-governmental organization which takes up liberation of scavengers by converting dry/bucket privies into Sulabh Shauchalaya(twin pit pour-flush toilet) and in doing so Sulabh then rehabilitates and liberates the scavengers. Sulabh organizes programmes which we were given a tour of at their facility, to train them in various vocations such as driving, mechanics, tailoring, typing, computer, cane work, carpentry, masonary etc. They are also educated on health, sanitation and personal hygiene. Sulabh established the training institutes exclusively for scavengers at Patna and Mahavir Enclave, New Delhi. It has also established such an institute at Jambol Distt., Thane, in collaboration with the State government and is running it successfully.

Tour of Sulabh International and their Toilet Technology in May 2008

video

Friday, November 30, 2007

Tourist's Perspective of Toilets in India!

Good friends of ours John and Roby from the UK toured India in October 2007 on vacation, and Kuldip my sister and I requested that they document their India "toilet experience" from a tourist's perspective. The lack of toilet sanitation in India is a known issue, but it is not something that Indian residents or tourist's openly talk about and no one appears to want to address the problem, so we thought we would take an opportunity to hear it as it is, right from the streets of India!

India Toilet Experience - provided by John and Roby from the UK:

Background

Roby and I travelled through Northern India in October 2007. Our trip took in the Himalayas (based on Leh), the Punjab (Amritsar), Agra and Rajasthan and the city of Delhi.

It’s fair to say that, for the most part, we experienced a sanitised tourist-friendly version of this fantastic part of India as we travelled in an air-conditioned car with our own attentive driver. However, we often went off the beaten track, insisting on taking the long way round, visiting the outskirts behind the temples and palaces. We bought stuff in local markets and chemists, joined in at a local Dusserha celebration and were welcomed and fed at a party where people were celebrating the birth of a child.

Punjab Lioness Toilet Foundation

With the Punjab Lioness Toilet Foundation in mind, we tried to speak to people we met along the way and we’ve tried to illustrate the lack of toilet facilities with some photos. Of course I’m aware some of our comments may be na├»ve but they’re given with a good heart and I hope they may be of some use.

Several people we spoke to questioned the need for such foundations in the Punjab claiming it to be one of, if not the most, prosperous region of India. Everyone we spoke to agreed that there is a dire need for toilet facilities. Everyone we spoke to were interested in the programme, particularly when I explained the history and connection to the Lioness. Next time, we could take business cards and brochures and we could engage even more people!

The reality is that 700 million citizens of India have no access to proper toilet, washing or drinking water facilities. They use rivers, streams, fields, gutters, pieces of waste ground or the roadside as their toilet.

For many rural people, the routine is for women to go to one field and men to another, to take a mug of water and perhaps a rag or a piece of newspaper and, preserving modesty where possible, go to the toilet.

We saw, from the window of the train or the car, men, women and children squatting in stinking pieces of waste ground or at the side of the railway tracks. We saw them washing next to old hand pumps or carrying drinking water in pots on their heads from the well to their village along hard dry roads.

People were always willing to talk to me and here’s what some of them said:

Benu Bindra (Amritsar)

‘One of the problems I see is that of the non-urban women who come into Amritsar from the villages. They are more conservative and don’t have the confidence of the urban women who will quite easily go into a hotel and use the facilities. They are embarrassed to go into these places so they go wherever they can. Amritsar needs a programme of clean, well signposted public toilets, some for men and some for women.’

Iftaqar (Agra)

‘The man drinks dirty water and he watches his children drink dirty water. He goes to the toilet in the fields and he watches his children go to the toilet in the fields. He is resigned to this; he accepts it and he will never revolt’.

Islam Ahmed (Agra)

‘If I have to say anything positive, I can say that it’s good fertiliser for the fields. On a more serious note, women are more shy and reserved and try to hide in the bushes. I know of two women who have been bitten by snakes. It’s a vast job. Villages need investment, sewage pipes and connections to water supplies but the government concentrate on the big cities first, like Delhi’

Nirmal Singh (Beas)

‘I don’t mind using the fields. The men go one way, the women go the other. In fact, we have a toilet but we only use it in the dark or for emergencies. And it takes forever to get the tank emptied. Maybe some women have a different view but for me it’s not a problem. If the wheat or the sugar cane doesn’t grow, I have a big problem’

Joginder (Bundi)

‘For this type of programme to work, you need to come here and give money to individual families and say “Here, this is to put in a toilet. If you do this, we’ll give the same to your neighbours”. If you give the money to the government, there will be no toilets, only corruption’

Umash Kumar Sharma (Jaipur)

‘In the village where I lived when I was a child, we use the fields and it’s not good enough. It’s a dreadful problem for old people, anyone who is disabled and for women who are heavily pregnant. Time has moved on and it’s no longer good enough. Each village should have at least one proper toilet for men and one for women, clean and properly maintained’.

Preeti (Delhi)

‘The women from my village are very reserved. They often try to shield their faces in public and would definitely cover their faces if you went to speak to them. They go in the fields but they are uncomfortable about it and about the idea of a man from the village seeing them. We have different fields for men and women but some men do not respect this’.

Conclusion

From speaking to people, here are some thoughts on ensuring that the programme is a success. These points are in no particular order and are based on what people said to us.

Many citizens are apathetic to the problem and accept it as the norm for the present and the future, for them and their families.

The problem of using waste ground/fields is even more acute for the elderly, disabled and women in the latter stages of pregnancy. Small children can be scared if they need to go in the night, needing to wake up a parent.

There is a culture of corruption, especially among local politicians. Providing funds to them wouldn’t mean they would use them to build toilets.

Central government, when it does act, will concentrate on the big cities before the rural communities.

Rural women are generally more reserved and conservative. The idea of squatting in public is one which is uncomfortable and undignified. Concentrate on these communities.

There are sometimes government funding/grants which can be obtained. Quite recently, in Rajasthan, individuals could apply for a grant which covered 30% of the cost of providing a toilet and tank to their homes. Investigate this.

Use local materials/labour. Many people we spoke to said they had no money but would be happy to work on projects which would benefit them and their children.

Raise the money, go there, choose a community, work with local people and materials, gain momentum, provide and start again.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Toilet Passion, Why? My Personal Journal and Recollection of Toilet Incidents

I had never imagined that I would become a Toilet Activist! It was in March 2007 that I had my epiphany to build toilets in Punjab, India. However it is important to note that once I had committed I started experiencing a series of recollections from my past years that just reaffirmed why I was being led down this path. Today, I continue to see signs of "toilet messages" call them coincidences or synchronicity but there are far too many to ignore. Read on and enjoy!

My Historical Recollection and Phobia Of The Lack of Toilet Accessibility.

1970's
Summer school vacation periods involved working the farms i.e. strawberry, potato, green beans and apple fields with my mother in the UK for extra cash. This was my first introduction to no toilet accessibility amongst fellow fruit and vegetable pickers.

1977
During my first trip to India at the age of 13, I remember how awful it was to not have the luxury of a toilet when I stayed at my aunt's house in Athouli Pind. I remember my mother had packed sanitary towels for me the size of a baby diaper (now that I remember, I believe they actually were diapers/nappy's as we called them in the UK!).

I was mortified when my cousin's told me that I had to go to toilet in the sugar cane fields. And off I trotted, with my toilet paper in hand, spending a good few minutes determining the "best location" before I did my call of nature! Not a nice experience, especially as I had to hide the toilet paper amongst the leafs as no one used paper in the fields and they would know it was me!

August 1987
During a trip to India in 1987 with my sister's I recall Kuldeep my sister and her sister-in-law Kamal urgently needed to go for a "pee". The options available were that we either turn back home to my aunt's house where we were visiting or pee in the sugar cane field on route. The sugar cane field option was the easiest, until the local dogs decided to chase them out of the field, which I must say was one of the many hilarious moments we have experienced in India!

April 2004
Attended a Government supported Canada/India Trade Mission on how to do business in India. During this trip I remember distinctly how I would plan my entire daily activities to ensure that I would have access to a toilet facility, especially in Punjab!

March 2007
When I was first inspired to build toilets in India (review Punjab Lioness History below for detailed explanation!)

April 2007
I was planning to attend a United Nations conference in Toronto on how to do business with the UN and did a web search on United Nations, the first article that was displayed was Sanitation Needs in India, and why girls in Grade 8 stop attending school because of the lack of toilets in schools. I resonated with this article as I could not imagine any young girl not having access to a toilet facility in a school, especially during a menstrual cycle, it is unthinkable, how females are expected to cope in those situations.

May 2007
Searching the web on the topic of toilets in India and came across a web site Sulabh International, a non-profit organization that has been dedicated to providing millions of less fortunate families with toilets in India. Also realized that in November 2007 India was hosting the World Toilet Summit in Delhi, India.

June 2007
I recalled several years ago my son was having a conversation and had asked his aunt Rashpal "What's a Lioness", I remember because a big joke was made at the fact that he did not know at his age! At the same time my son had turned around to his cousin and in rebuttal had asked "what's a urinal"!

July 2007
Realized that there was an organization called the World Toilet Organization headquartered in Singapore. The annual World Toilet Day is on November 19th, one day after my mother passing away.

August 2007
The World Toilet Organization web site featured world maps of countries supporting the initiative. Ironically the Canadian flag did not appear to be shown. Why?

September 2007
I was frantically searching for some documentation in a file folder in my home office and came across a file containing a black and white hand etched drawing that my son Amardeep had created in grade 9. I liked it so much that I had filed it away without remembering 7 years ago. I found it recently and it depicts a Lion - the picture is shown below!

September 11, 2007
Woke up this morning and decided to do a "Google I Feel Lucky Search" for Punjab Lioness. I discovered that all names have a special meaning in Sikhism. Parents choose the best name according to their wish. A child is normally named in the spirit what the parents want the child to be. Singh means Lion and Kaur means Lioness! Tegh Bahadur means, brave swordsman, Amar Singh means, Eternal Lion, Diljit Kaur means, Heart winning lioness and so on. The relevance is that I am of Sikh culture and my son is named Amar, he was the one that created the drawing of the Lion below.

October 22nd, 2007
I contacted Jack Sim, the Founder of the World Toilet Organization to determine if any organization was actively involved in Canada with his organization. He advised me that a movie producer Ari Grief in Toronto was producing a movie on "Toilets" and that he was contemplating starting the Canadian Toilet Organization (CTO) and that we should sync up our activities.

November 1st, 2007
I was travelling back from San Francisco with a business associate and decided to pick up a book from the airport bookstore. I was intrigued by the title of a book called Beyond Coincidence - Amazing Stories of Coincidence and the Mystery Behind Them by Martin Plimmer and Brian King. I randomley opened up the book on page 196 entitled "Toilet Talk" with a topic on the long controversy amongst scholars and drunkards about the orgin of the word "crap" and that although Thomas Crapper ran a successful sanitary ware business in England he did NOT invent the lavatory! Need I say more, I chuckled and purchased it as it was another friendly reminder!

November 17th, 2007
I had a phone conversation with Ari Grief (producer of FLUSH toilet documentary movie) and advised him that I had done some research on him and was intrigued by the fact that he had family linage to Louis Mayer one of the co-founders and head of Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM), in his family tree, only from the perspective that MGM's icon is a Lion! Ari eluded that he would give me one better, his name Ari in Hebrew meant Lion!

November 19th, 2007
As I drove to work today, a car drove by me on the highway with a number plate "Up Flush"!

November, 2007
Just realized I live at exit 299 off the highway signed African Lion Safari!

December 2007
When my mother passed away I found two UK 10 pence coins in our study on the table. My son Amar claimed he had found them in a purse I did not often use and put them there. I had placed them on our fireplace mantle and forgotten them. One early morning in December, I was sitting drinking my morning tea, and got up instantly went directly to the fireplace and picked up the coins. I flipped them over and realized that the back of the coins had lion emblems!

2008 - The Lion Keeps Appearing or should I say Roaring!

- Noticed I have a Celestial Seasonings Tea fridge magnet with a Lion sipping a cup of tea and the quote - "What is strength without a double share of wisdom?"

- My neighbor asks if I have started advertising on the back of trucks as he saw a sign that read "In Loving Memory Mandeep" and a large Lion's Head!

- My son started a job at the Royal Bank of Canada and as you may be aware their logo is a lion's head. Anyway he mentioned to me that the first day of his employment, a training package was given to him which read "Amardeep SanSher"! Sher in Indian means Lion!

- The Guelph Museum have an exhibit "Sitting Pretty" about the history of toilets in Canada and I noticed there was a roll of old toilet paper packaged with a Lions head as the logo!

- I was watching a famous people cribs program (actually my son had the TV on and I was watching!) and it was Sir Richard Branson. Well when the show stopped the camera zoomed out and there half butt naked was Sir Richard Branson looking out towards the ocean on a composting toilet!

- Jan 2009 - Met with a local Government agency to discuss how the Canadian Toilet Organization may help in keeping toilets out of landfill sites. I was sent the address and when I searched Google Maps, the building is next to Lyons Park!

- Feb 2, 2009 - This has to be the best one so far! I have used W H Murray's quote quite often and part of the couplet by Goethe "Whatever You Can Do Or Dream You Can, Begin It. Boldness Has Genius, Power and Magic In It!". Well I was researching historical facts and the research led me back to W H Murray and a page that mentions he wrote one of his books in prison on the back and front side of Toilet Paper!

- March 2009 - WOW, just watched SlumDog Millionaire, and there again the Toilet scene near the opening of the movie. The child jumps into the "poop" in the Mumbai river and runs to get an autograph by famous Indian actor Amitabh Bachan. Someone also told me that Danny Boyle has an affinity to Toilet Scenes. Here's a quote from an interview: "he discusses a particularly jovial scene from the movie involving the young protagonist and an outhouse crap bucket." “It’s a British film, you see, so you’ve got to have a toilet scene. No other nation on the planet is so obsessed with toilets like the British are.”

- April 2009 - Researching Alexander Graham Bell the inventor of the telephone and realized he too was researching composting toilets!

Purchase Punjab Lioness Toilet Foundation Wear

The History Of the Punjab Lioness Toilet Foundation

So here's a bit of history on why I have created this Blog.

When my mother passed away, I was 40 years of age and I found myself on a soul searching trip to understand my purpose in life. Having observed my mother's life including her hardships and successes I was determined to find an answer to the biggest question of my lifetime "Why Are We All Here". That journey took me down several paths of reading numerous spiritual and self development material, pursuing various interests including Health and Nutrition, Financial Education and in Spring 2007 something finally "clicked".

I was reading a paper on personal development that engaged the topic of how to create success in your life. No matter what field of work you are involved in, what I have learned is that individual success is a "by product" of "helping other people". At that same moment in time an idea just popped into my head "I would build toilets in Punjab, India for families in need". That was the beginning of this journey.

The series of incidents and recollections that have followed since the toilet topic emergence in my conscious, has just reaffirmed that this is part of my life path and my way of giving back to society.

I also decided at that same time to name the cause after my mother Pritam Kaur Bahia who was known as the Lioness as a result of her courage during her lifetime. Why Lioness? Read on further and all will be revealed!

Some History On My Mother
My father died at a very young age of 39 in 1973 whilst visiting India on vacation and my mother was relayed the terrible news of his death by my brother who was 12 at the time, who had to read a Telegram clearly stating our father had died on June 14th, 1973 of a heart attack. Observing the incident I clearly recollect her annoyance as she slapped by brother sharply and shouted at him for being illiterate as he clearly did not understand the content of the telegram. She then dashed off to a relatives house who sadly brought her to the sad realization that she was left to bring up four children on her own. I was 9 years old, my brother Gurdial (David because again the teachers could not pronounce his name in school decided to change his name!) was 12 and my sisters Kuldeep was 6 and Rashpal (Palo) was 4.

The Significance of "The Lioness"
When my mother passed away in November 18th, 2004, my family realized that we did not have any quality solo photograph of our mother that we could frame in her memory. My PC creative brother-in-law Parminder (Sam) Vedash, recreated a photo from a small "photo booth" size picture and enlarged it placing it behind a backdrop of golden coloured leafs.

When I first saw the photo during my mother's funeral visit, I could not believe that the photo had been created from such a small picture. Further, I was intrigued that my brother-in-law used a backdrop of Canadian Maple Leaves! Not giving the photo much further thought, I brought back a copy to Canada and placed it proudly in a photo frame and placed it on a coffee table in my family room.

Within one week of staring at the photo during my remorse, I realized that the photo contained a "Lions Head" to the right of my mother's face! (as you look at the photo head on). The image could easily be seen from a distance, just like those 3D holographic artwork pieces sold in art stores. I excitedly phoned my sisters in the UK and asked them if they too could "see the Lions Head" and as I expected YES they did!

Well that was the beginning of discovering the Lioness and that perhaps the photo contained a "secret code" message from our mother!

It was not until I realized that perhaps one of my purposes in life is create awareness of global sanitation issues and help with funding raising for toilets that I immediately decided to call it the Punjab Lioness Toilet Foundation.

I further discovered the relevance of the Canadian Maple leaves. I was the only child residing in Canada and if you view the photograph carefully on the bottom left hand corner there is ONE large BRIGHT leaf, could this be the significance of Mandip Kaur Sandher pursuing this initiative. Perhaps.

Can You Spot The Lions Head Amongst The Leaves?

Can You Spot The Lions Head Amongst The Leaves?
Jasvinder Kaur Bahia - 1930 - Nov 18, 2004