World Toilet College to open in India

19th of October 2015
World Toilet College to open in India

India is a country where people are more likely to have access to a smartphone than a toilet. Now one manman plans to spark a sanitary revolution in India with the first World Toilet College.

Dubbed 'Mr Toilet', Singaporean Jack Sim is widely known as the businessman who retired at the age of 40 after successfully winding up 16 businesses, to devote himself to social work in the sanitation and toilet sector. He is the founder of the World Toilet Organisation (WTO).

In partnership with UK-based consumer goods company RB, probably best known as the producer of Dettol, and India-based Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA), Sim's WTO now plans to bring India into the 21st century of toilet access for all.

India is expected to have 651 million smartphone users by 2019, according to a Cisco report released earlier this year. Compare this to the figure of 640 million plus people defaecating in the open. This causes contamination of water sources due to poor sewage filters and leading to illnesses including diarrhoea, which kills over 2.3 million children in India every year, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Sim says there are an estimated 2.5 billion people globally who live without access to proper sanitation. "If you solve the India problem, then you solve 60 percent of the world's sanitation problem," he says.

Leaping on the back of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi's widely advertised Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, or the Clean India Mission, the World Toilet College aims to teach everything from toilet building to how to keep toilets clean to equipping students with an entrepreneurial mind-set for marketing clean sanitation standards.

The College plans to tie up with ready-built brick-and-mortar institutions across India, to teach their curriculum to students.

Modi has pledged to make India open-defaecation free by 2019 - but changing long-practiced unsanitary habits is a huge challenge.

"How do you switch from open defaecation practices to making the toilet an object of desire?" asks Sim. "By making it a very aspirational, beautiful object," he says.

By using a combination of humour and business intellect, Sim wants to change behaviour toward unhealthy hygiene practices by targeting human emotion. "The pride, the status having one [toilet] gives, the fear of being ostracised if you don't have one - it's been proven by the smartphone, everybody has to have one."

He says the hygiene aspect follows. "Toilet cleaning cannot be seen as a low-class unskilled job, if it has good pay everyone will want to have this job, it's about creating a supply chain of desire."



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