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Issue No.117
17 December 2018

Bog standard

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Fancy twinning your toilet? Seren Boyd tells us how


What is Toilet Twinning and how does it work?

Toilet Twinning is a charity campaign raising funds to provide proper sanitation, clean water and hygiene education in some of the poorest communities in the world. We're part of the international development charity, Tearfund, and raise money for its water and sanitation work. We tend to work in remote, hard-to-reach communities, often in volatile regions and fragile states, including countries such as the DRC and Central African Republic.

We invite people to 'twin' their toilet at home with a latrine overseas - and so sponsor a loo for a family abroad. In return for a one-off £60 donation, you receive a certifi cate of your 'toilet twin', complete with a photo and its GPS coordinates. We fund projects in about twenty-fi ve countries across three continents - and you can choose which country your toilet is twinned with.

We work through local community-based partners. Our approach focuses on enabling and equipping people to find their own solutions to the issues that keep them trapped in poverty. While our partners provide training and materials, it is generally the families themselves who do the hard work and build their own latrines. That gives them 'ownership' of their toilet and means they keep on using it.


Who came up with the idea?

When Toilet Twinning was first set up, it was a joint venture between two charities: Tearfund and Cord, which is a peace and reconciliation non-governmental organisation (NGO). Back in 2008, Cord had an 'alter-native gift' catalogue. The wife of one of Cord's managers sponsored a toilet in Burundi as a Christmas present for her husband. Sian Atterton's stroke of genius was to tape the picture of a latrine onto the loo seat at home on Christmas morning and to add a sticky note bearing the words: "I've twinned your loo." Her husband, Mark, was inspired.

After a few months of developing and tweaking the concept, Cord launched Toilet Twinning. The initial target - to twin 500 toilets in Burundi - was reached in just three months. Cord soon realised Toilet Twinning had the potential to go global. In 2010, it joined forces with Tearfund to extend the number of countries where toilets could be twinned.

Five years later, Cord handed over the Toilet Twinning baton to Tearfund so that it could focus on its peace-building work. Almost 95,000 toilets have been twinned to date.


Who can twin their toilets?

Anyone can twin their toilets - whether a household privy or a WC in a stately home! We have great links with many churches, schools, community groups and businesses.

Our main supporters are churches who have fundraised for us through collections at festivals such as harvest (on the theme of thanksgiving) and Lent, as well as through one-off fundraising events to mark World Toilet Day on 19 November. Watnall Road Baptist Church in Nottingham launched their Toilet Twinning campaign with a spoof announcement in church that the church loos were shut and 'poo bags' were available, so that people could 'do their business and throw it outside'. They raised £3,600 through weekly collections - enough to twin 60 toilets at £60 apiece, one for every household.

Having twinned their own toilets, many churches go on to spearhead community fundraising campaigns to make theirs a Toilet Twinned town or village. This is an accolade we give to communities who have pulled together to twin local toilets. On World Toilet Day last year, Dunscore Church Eco Group declared every loo in their village to be 'out of use': the only 'authorised' one was in the church, they said, with tongue in cheek. They issued £5 fines to anyone suspected of using a 'non-authorised' loo, or people could pay £60 to get their own toilet 'authorised' (and twinned). They raised a laugh and £900!

Schools have great fun mixing a good dose of British toilet humour with serious messages about how loos save lives - and we have had some wonderful support from them. They've come up with their own brilliant fundraising ideas, including chicken poo bingo, Splash Dash fun-runs and 'Bakes for Bogs' cake sales!

Inspired? Find out more: w: or t: 0300 321 3217


Bawili and her daughter, Ebinda - Democratic Republic of Congo

Ebinda's father was killed during a civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The rest of the family fl ed to Tanzania and spent ten years there in a refugee camp. When they were forcibly returned to their own country, to South Kivu province, they had no home, no clean water, no toilet.

Ebinda had to walk for ninety minutes, three times a day, to collect water from Lake Tanganyika. The water was dirty and many people fell sick with cholera. While still a teenager, Ebinda was attacked by several men when she went to the toilet in the bush one day. She fell pregnant as a result.

Determined not to let other families suffer as hers did, Ebinda's mum, Bawili, joined a Community Health Club set up with Toilet Twinning's support. It teaches local people about hygiene and encourages them to build toilets. She's now club president.

As Bawili was unable to build her own loo, health club members built her a toilet. "We're learning to work together… to love each other," says Bawili. "If there is no love, we cannot build a good society. We used to be ashamed when people shouted abuse as we walked to the bush. I'm so happy to have a toilet."


More Stories

To read about Bishwo and his family (Nepal) and Bridget (Uganda) go to w: