An inclusive toilet in Nepal brings smiles to the third gender

Bardiya (Pahichan) February 19 – In the second week of January, I was on a regular monitoring visit of the SAFA & SWASTHA Gulariya project. As per the plan, I headed to the public toilet site in Gulariya bazaar. Reaching the site, I was amazed to see a large group of third gender colleagues around the public toilet.

I could see delighted faces beaming with joy. Everybody had come together to see themselves being recognised. It was quite hard for me to believe that such a small initiative would bring them such happiness.

I was eager and meet with Sapana Chaudhary (39). She is from Basagadi Municipality 4, Bardiya and currently lives in Gulariya bazaar. Sapana is working with Sundar Sansar; a local NGO as a president. The NGO has seven executive members and 303 general members.Sapana Chaudhari

Sapana was enthusiastic and said the problems the third gender had to face brought her to tears time and again. She told me, “If we go to the electricity office to pay the bills, there are only two sections – for male and female separated with photos; but we can’t find a section for third gender so we feel distressed.”

She added, “One day, I was travelling to Kathmandu and on the way, the bus stopped at Lamahi, Dang. I went to a public toilet but saw the photos of male and female only. So, I went to an open space to answer the call of nature. Seeing that, the security personnel came to me and forcefully asked to collect the urine. I was terrified and asked him where I should go. I further told him to construct an inclusive toilet. I felt miserable at that time also.”

Sapana continued, “During speeches in workshops or mass meetings, speakers generally welcome male and female addressing as brothers and sisters or mothers and fathers but nobody recognises thethird gender. We feel as if we have been neglected and are not getting due recognition.”

Sapana and her team members are advocating at community and district level for recognition as well as for their rights through various awareness raising activities.

In support of their campaign, the ‘Open Defecation Free Gulariya Municipality by 2015’ project has constructed a public toilet in Gulariya bazaar jointly with the Gulariya Municipality to promote improved sanitation for all. The toilet is inclusive with separate facilities for male, female and third gender including disabled friendly.

Practical Action has been implementing the two-year project in Gulariya Municipality, Bardiya District in Nepal since August 2014. The project is funded by DFID under UK Aid match fund and is being implemented through Environment and Public Health Organisation (ENPHO) a national NGO.

Sapana and her colleagues are very happy with this facility. She said the toilet is near the bus stop, so many people can see the inclusive facility. This will help with replication in their respective districts. It is also helping to spread the word about recognition for the third gender in other districts.

The toilet is located in an appropriate place so they don’t have trouble using it during workshops, training and other events.

Additionally, the new constitution of Nepal has addressed their agenda. Now, they will be recognised as third gender on citizenship certificates and there will be no gender based discrimination.

Sapana concluded “For us, this is a prestigious achievement. We would like to thank Practical Action, ENPHO and Gulariya Municipality for promoting such facility.”

It is a small effort towards gender equality and social inclusion. However, it needs to be addressed at each and every level to achieve sustainable development in the country.

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