Toilet Tale #4: Banking on Friendly Acquaintances


Selvi, 40
Sells flowers on the roadside

“I spend most of the day on the road, and there are no public toilets around that I can use. The only way I can access a toilet is by going into nearby banks, posing as a customer. I do this especially when I’m on my period and need a toilet more than on normal days.

It’s humiliating to do this, mainly because they stare at me since they know I’m not a customer by the way I’m dressed. Sometimes, they stop me, saying I’m not allowed to use the toilet. So I try to acquaint myself with people who work there, so that they will let me go without too many questions.”

*Interviewed by Saranya V and Santha V

Toilet Tales: Stories of Chennai Women

Sanitation is a basic need for every human being. But the reality is, it isn’t accessible for many people. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), one in three individuals in the developing world do not have access to toilets.

The sanitation crisis affects women and girls the most. While in rural areas, women wait for nightfall to relieve themselves, in urban settings, the struggles to find a safe toilet are many and varied.

In the run up to World Toilet Day, Prajnya has teamed up with The Hapee Commode to raise awareness about gender and sanitation. Prajnya decided to ask one question: How do women who spend most of their day outside the house manage? And as part of this work, Prajnya’s  Saranya V, Santha V and Ragamalika interviewed women for their stories. We’ll be posting one story every day, starting today.

Do read and share!

Toilets are a women’s rights question too!


The ability to find and use a clean toilet with water supply, safely and when one needs, is an underrated human security issue. The threat of sexual violence, the health complications that come from controlling one’s need to urinate or defecate, the ability to clean oneself with privacy and dignity, and to be able to do so at home and work–are fundamental to anything we seek by way of women’s rights and gender equity.

Aastha Atray Banan, Why women should not hold on, Tehelka Magazine, Vol 7, Issue 29, Dated July 24, 2010.