Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Why Do Toilets Need Their Own Day?

November 14, 2011

This week, in addition to announcing some new advocacy partnerships with organizations such as WASH United, we’re partnering with other powerful advocates, including , the World Toilet Organization,, Acumen Fund, Water for People, and ONE, to “Talk Sh*t All Week”. Check back this week on our blog to learn more.  

November 19 is World Toilet Day–the day we recognize the critical needs of the 2.6 billion people who don’t have access to a safe, clean, and reliable place to go to the bathroom. It’s also a day to recognize the opportunity we have to change things.

Ten years ago, a Singaporean entrepreneur named Jack Sim established the World Toilet Organization and World Toilet Day to build a community of people who commit each year to raising their voices about the sanitation crisis. World Toilet Day has swiftly grown into an annual reminder that billions of people don’t have access to this basic need and that just a handful of countries are on track to meet the UN Millennium Development Goal  of reducing by half the number of people without access to sanitation by 2015.

While it may be surprising to most of us, globally, 1.1 billion people defecate in the open. World Toilet Day will help to educate many that millions of girls can’t go to school because there isn’t a clean toilet, and that many urban communities in developing countries don’t have a safe and affordable way to dispose of human waste. World Toilet Day provides an opportunity for the growing community of sanitation advocates to talk about the benefits of investments in sanitation–lower rates of diarrheal disease, better school attendance, and better economic productivity (as every $1 investment in sanitation produces $9 in economic benefits). 

Here at the foundation, improving sanitation that works for the poor is the focus of our Water, Sanitation & Hygiene strategy. Through innovation in sanitation science and technology, support for community-led efforts to end open defecation, and a focus on services that reach the poorest, we’re trying to support catalytic change.

Using our voice and amplifying the voice of others to talk about what works and what needs to be done is a key element of our efforts. Most importantly, we work with governments, NGOs, researchers, and other donors to improve access to safe and affordable sanitation, and our advocacy focuses on supporting organizations –particularly those in developing countries –that are changing behaviors, perceptions, and policies. 

Reinvent the Toilet
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