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Making a stink: creating social media platforms to end open defecation
" A side event hosted by UNICEF at World Water Week, Stockholm "

 A side event hosted by UNICEF at World Water Week, Stockholm 

Register for the event


We need to talk about open defecation

One year ago, at World Water Week the UN deputy secretary-general, Jan Eliasson, mentioned "open defecation" five times during his formal speech.  He also spoke about toilets. Quoted later in the Guardian newspaper  he said, "I stuck my neck out today when I said we have to break taboos because people didn't even mention the word toilet in the UN five years ago." 

Recalling a recent UN event, he said: "I finished my speech saying we must work for a life with toilets for all. I looked up at the interpreters up in the booths and they looked at me as if to say 'did he really say toilet as the last word in his speech?'"

One year later Mr Eliasson launched stating that everyone needs to know about open defecation so that we can end it by 2025. 

Breaking the silence in India 

People find talking about open defecation difficult and this is especially so in India where issues of caste, religion and generational norms prevail. For an issue that is too difficult for swathes of India’s population to even mention, the statistics are shocking. 

Just under half of India’s population - 595 million people do not use a toilet. The negative impact is horrendous: 61 million stunted children under five, needless deaths due to diarrheal disease; loss of privacy and dignity for women. But, imagine the power for change if the remaining population – some 500 million people, actually did stand up to make a stink. 

This is why in late 2013, UNICEF launched asking India’s youth to make a noise about open defecation. We did this via the power of communities on social media; where friends talk with and listen to trusted friends. 

Going beyond the limits of traditional public awareness campaigns, in to new virtual communities and networks and back again, poo2loo has made a stink in India and across the world. It has been applauded and occasionally maligned. It is courageous and creative and above all a game changer. 

The side event 

Building on poo2loo, the side event aims to make a stink about the way international development partners and governments currently approach talking about open defecation. We want to get people excited about the power of connectivity and social media platforms to help create a new social norm. We want to open minds to what is possible, dispel the risks and excite everyone to talk about open defecation

We’d like you to make this stink with us. 

Panellists and Moderator

Rose George 

Rose George is an author and journalist. In 2008, she published The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why it Matters, which explored the public health crisis caused by poor sanitation in the developing world, and the flawed sanitation models in the developed world. 

It was long-listed for the Lettre Ulysses award, and judged one of the top ten science books of 2008 by the American Library Association. She writes, comments and lectures frequently on sanitary issues including the death toll in children from diarrhoea; the fragile state of wastewater infrastructure, and cultural attitudes to sanitation and hygiene. 

Her TED talk on sanitation - "Let’s talk crap, seriously" - has had 1.5 million views. Her journalism appears in the Guardian, New York Times, Slate, Independent and many other publications.

Stephen Brown 

Stephen Brown is the UK Director at the Global Poverty Project and Global Citizen and Head of the national fundraising challenge Live Below the Line. Stephen has 9 years experience of campaigning for change and has won a series of awards and nominations for his work, including an International Emmy nomination for his work on Channel 4’s Battlefront TV show. 

Previous to the Global Poverty Project, Stephen was Campaign Director for Diane Abbott during the Labour Leadership battle of 2010 and is the former National Secretary of the National Union of Students.

Stephen is a contributor to The Huffington Post and more recently, The Big Issue and is a regular guest panellist on TV’s Not the One Show

Sanjay Wijesekera

Sanjay Wi jesekera is the Chief of Section for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, and Associate Director of Programmes, UNICEF, New York. Before joining UNICEF, from 2005–2011, he was working for the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), where he was responsible for managing overall policy and global programmes related to achieving the water and sanitation Millennium Development Goals.  

He also worked for DFID in Ghana as an infrastructure adviser, where he helped coordinate a Joint Assistance Strategy for the donor community and was the lead donor representative for the water sector.  Prior to that, between 2003 and 2005, he worked for UNICEF as a water and sanitation adviser in Nigeria.

Thorsten Kiefer 

Thorsten Kiefer is the founder and Executive Director of WASH United. 

A human rights lawyer by training, Thorsten has been working on the intersections between WASH and human rights in various positions for almost ten years, focusing particularly on advocacy.In 2012, Thorsten became an Ashoka fellow.

Francesca de Quesada Covey

Francesca is a strategic partnerships manager at Facebook, focusing on Prior to joining Facebook, she served as Deputy Counselor for Strategic Engagement to Senior Advisor to the President,Valerie Jarrett at the White House. 

Francesca holds a master's degree in Finance and Strategy from l'Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris and a bachelor's from Columbia University. 

Linda Patterson 

Linda Patterson is a Program Officer in Global Policy & Advocacy at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where she serves as the advocacy lead to the foundation’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene team. In this role she is responsible for developing and executing the strategy to raise awareness about the importance of sanitation, ensure appropriate policies at the national level to support non-sewered sanitation solutions and mobilize financial commitments for sanitation. 

Prior to joining the foundation in January 2008, Linda served as a program officer at the National Democratic Institute working on the elections and political processes team. In this capacity, she managed NDI’s international election observation programs, offered strategic counsel and support to NDI staff and partners on election-related integrity programs and provided assistance to nonpartisan domestic election monitoring groups. Linda has also worked in various capacities on US political campaigns.

Eddy Perez 

Eddy Perez is a Lead Sanitation Specialist with the Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) of the World Bank. Perez has a BS in Civil Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology and a Masters of Science in Engineering and Public Policy (with a concentration in Science and Technology in International Development) from Washington University (in St. Louis). Perez has over 35 years of experience in the water supply and sanitation, low-cost housing, urban slum upgrading, municipal strengthening and disaster management sectors. 

In his current role, Eddy leads the WSP  global practice on scaling  up rural sanitation which seeks to use evidenced based knowledge to influence policies and practices of  governments and development partners . Eddy is also the chair of the Post 2015 sanitation working group and on the Technical Advisory Group of the Global Sanitation Fund

Sue Coates 

Sue Coates is Chief of the WASH Programme at UNICEF India. Sue has a long association with UNICEF that started in the mid-1990s in Zambia and later included the role of Regional WASH Advisor for West and Central Africa, covering twenty-four countries. 

Sue also worked with the Water, Engineering and Development Centre (WEDC), Loughborough University, UK, where she was an Associate Director and Lecturer conducting research, consultancy, and post-graduate teaching. Sue has also undertaken work for DFID, GTZ, World Bank, WSP, EU and Save the Children. 

Her work with the private sector has included handwashing and hygiene behaviour change with GlaxoSmithKline and also Unilever

Maria Fernandez

Maria Fernandez provides expertise in social media for change and public advocacy campaigns Maria Fernandez is a Communication Specialist at UNICEF India with expertise in social media and online campaign management.

She has worked as a Communications Officer at UNFPA, New York, and as an Advocacy and Communications Officer with the UN, Hanoi, Viet Nam. She has spearheaded many campaigns, amongst them is the highly effective Poo2loo campaign addressing open defecation in India.




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