"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.

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.

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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