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Inculcating 'dignity of sanitation' in South Asia

May 21, 2009

At a workshop currently on in the Bhutanese capital, school children are learning the importance of sanitation and hygiene. In South Asia, about 900 million people still do not have access to toilets.

Besides studying, Bhutanese students hereafter will have an additional responsibility. They will be the agents of change – by creating awareness on sanitation and hygiene in schools and communities.

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At Harmony, the centenary youth village, students and teachers from six schools in Thimphu attended the inauguration of a five-day workshop on school sanitation and hygiene education.

“This was organised for exchange of ideas between students of India and Bhutan on health and sanitation,” said the head of comprehensive school health programme, department of youth and sports, Rinzin Wangmo.

Addressing the gathering, Dr Bindeshwar Pathak, who is world renowned for starting the sanitation movement and improving public health, said, “Children are more receptive to new ideas. Students serve as media for spreading the message of sanitation in homes and influence their parents to adopt toilets.”

Dr Pathak added, “But the mere provision of sanitation facilities is not enough. It’s the use of latrines and hygiene behaviour of people that provides health benefits. Dignity to sanitation should be taught to them so that they have no shame cleaning their toilets.”

The workshop will be attended by 60 students from lower secondary schools in Thimphu, school health coordinators and 10 school dropouts to discuss sanitation practices with ten students from Orissa, India, and 13 Sulabh international officials.

Addressing the gathering, the education minister Lyonpo Thakur Singh Powdyel said, “Gross national happiness is in many ways a counter force to a conventional idea of development, which is based on the principle of production, consumption, more production and more consumption. And sanitation today becomes even more pertinent, because the greater the level of consumption, the greater the level of litter and waste.”

Today, most of the world’s population lives in South Asia, with about 900 million people not having access to a sanitary means of excreta disposal. South Asia still has the lowest sanitation coverage in the world at 34%.

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