I have been finding the toilet situation in Sri Lanka one of the most difficult challenges of all. Even in Scotland I do not like using public loos and I hate people talking about all matters related to it. Out here, some of my friends are staying with families and using crouch down outdoor toilets which I think is one of the things I would not have coped with at all. I have thus far managed to avoid using one on my travels which is just as well as I'm finding the Westernised toilets difficult enough to deal with as it is.
However, the next time I am screwing my nose up at the insects buzzing around the loo or the lack of loo roll (in Sri Lanka they use a "scoosher" rather than paper - it's a hand held shower attachment and no doubt much more hygienic, but I just can't!) I will remind myself just how fortunate I really am and perhaps it will put an end to my pampered princess act!
Last Thursday I met with Shakthi Organisation. It's a women's organisation in the Trincomalee District of Sri Lanka and my company is trying to get funding for them. We had to meet in Colombo as I'm not allowed to go to Trincomalee for security reasons so you know right away that it's an area with its problems.
Anyway the impressive Chief Executive, a 27 year old woman who started Shakthi when she was just 19 told me something that made me feel more than a little shamefaced at my aversion to public loos. She told me she visited one village in the area and of the 75 households, only ten percent had any form of toilet at all. That means around 68 houses don't even have an outside crouch down toilet. 'So what on earth do they do?' I asked and she told me they simply have to use the jungle.
Then she told me the reason they are so desperate to build a toilet for everyone, is because of the ongoing problem of men sexually assaulting and raping women using the jungle as a toilet. I found that really hard to hear and I understand why many people turn away from stories like that because it's too much to think about, it's too horrific and easier to pretend you never knew about it in the first place. But these women have no choice, they live with it every day and night.
I will do whatever I can to help secure funding for them but I'll do it knowing they are not the only ones. In developing countries across the world people are without the most basic things that we in the West take for granted. What I have been steadfastly avoiding using since I got here, will seem like luxury to these women and more importantly it will be safe. Yet again I am reminded of how very unfair this world can be.