EWN observes World Toilet Day at a village in India


Villagers from Parja Suku in Odisha, India gathered to celebrate World Toilet Day with the Ecumenical Water Network and the Jeypore Evangelical Lutheran Church. © Mrutyunjay Kondpan

Observing World Toilet Day in the village of Parja Suku in Odisha, India, brought forward the painful reality of many communities around the world where good, hygienic sanitation facilities are lacking.


In Parja Suku, there is one toilet for a village of 500 people, and that toilet is reserved for guests of honour. For the villagers, their toilets are nothing less than open air bathrooms found behind bushes and in hidden corners.


The reality today is that over 2.5 billion people around the world do not have access to safe and hygienic sanitation. Over 1 billion people simply do not have access to any kind of toilets. This is not only a sanitation problem, but compromises a person’s privacy and dignity, particularly for the women.  


World Toilet Day, held 19 November, underscores the need for healthy sanitation and breaking the taboos surrounding sanitation facilities. People and organizations around the world took a moment to pray and advocate for better sanitation.


In Parja Suka, where the vast majority of inhabitants come from the Dalit community, the outcast group known as "untouchables", villagers gathered to draw attention to their difficult sanitation system.


A worship service, sponsored by the local church, was held in a nearby sports field. The church is part of the Koraput Deanery of the Jeypore Evangelical Lutheran Church (JELC).


“Every day is a nightmare for us… we have to plan every night, before we go to bed, where will I go tomorrow to attend the nature’s call,” said Sarojini Khora, to 100 villagers and guests attending the service. Khora works at the Villages’s Intergrated Child Development Centre.  


“Many a times we have to simply ‘control’ our urge to ‘defecate’ and postpone it till the night falls.”


Simultaneously and at the initiative of the Ecumenical Water Network (EWN), a morning prayer service was conducted for World Toilet Day at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, where the EWN Secretariat of the World Council of Churches (WCC) is located. It was led by Dr Guillermo Kerber, coordinator of the WCC's eco-justice team.


Along with the congregation of some 100 villagers a handful of others attended the event, including the incoming EWN coordinator Dinesh Suna, the JELC youth coordinator and EWN participant, Angelious Michael, and two young Germans currently on an exchange programme with the JELC, Jesse Schwenk and Nele Albers.


Suna highlighted the importance of a dignified, healthy and hygienic sanitation facility for a quality life and related it to the “life in all its fullness” promised by Jesus Christ. He also promised to try his best in coordinating with several government and non-governmental organizations working on water, sanitation and hygiene in the region to build at least some toilets in the village for public use and maintain them with proper water supply.  


Schwenk, the youth volunteer said, “Back home in Germany, we never had to think about where and when we shall relieve ourselves, when we get the urge. Whenever nature called, we just went to the toilet - which was there - be it at home, at school, at public places… everywhere. Hence we cannot imagine a life without a toilet”.  


Reflection by Dr Guillermo Kerber on World Toilet Day


Photo album on the EWN Facebook page


WCC Ecumenical Water Network