© 2018 FLUSH

"Knowledge of history and progress of technology may contribute to better understanding of basic human needs and inspire new developments in the field."

Source: Yannopoulos et al (2017), "History of sanitation and hygiene technologies in the Hellenic world", Journal of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Development, v07.2.

Toilets
in History

Toilets are not a new thing to the world, but their journey isn't always that straightforward, either.

 

Explore the timeline to see how sometimes humans go forward, and then backward, and then forward again.

 

On your right is a timeline with important milestones that have led the world to its current toilet state. Scroll backward through time to learn more.

 
 

Mythology

Throughout time there have been several myths and cultural lore around the workings of the toilet. There have been gods, goddesses, demons, ghosts, and other magical figures related to the culture of the toilet.

Below are several examples of these mythical creatures. Click to get more details.

Šulak
Babylonian toilet demon
Belphegor
Judeo-Christian demon who sits on a toilet throne
Jinn
Islamic demon that often inhabits dirty toilets
Zigu
Chinese toilet goddess
Akaname
Japanese demon of bathroom filth
Cheuksin
Korean toilet goddess
Kawaya No-Kami
Japanese toilet god
Cloacina
Ancient Roman goddess of the sewer
Stercutius
Ancient Roman god of dung
Show More
 
 
 

Taboo Corner

What is a taboo? At FLUSH, "taboo" means something that is socially unacceptable - either in action or in talking about it. Taboo things are not necessarily enforced by law.

 

There are different reasons why cultures are reluctant to change their habits and behaviors with water and sanitation. Some of them are unique.

 

Below is a map with different taboos that exist in different areas of the world. Click on a point to learn more.

Wash Projects Fails

You'd be surprised how often the news contains fascinating stories about toilets. We’ve collected a few below, or follow us on Twitter to learn more.

Building toilets for people and then leaving the scene has been a historically common way people in the world of water & sanitation have tried to improve access to sanitation.
 
Read more: The Last Taboo: (by Black & Fawcett)

Read more: Toilets & Taps Aren't Enough (by Casey & Crichton-Smith)

"If they build it, they will come"

​Training people with the skills to help others get access to clean water and sanitation takes time. Many training sessions are crammed into one or two 6-8 hour days. As a result, people don't remember what they were taught and are not confident in using the skills they just learned.
 

Read more: NGO Partnerships and Capacity Development in the WASH Sector (by Willetts et al)

Read more: Capacity Building in Cambodia’s Rural Local Governments for the Sanitation Market (by Worsham et al)

"Let's have a marathon training event"

What may be a successful solution for one community, may not necessarily work for another. Different terrains require different toilet structures and cultural differences must be accounted for in order for a system to prosper. 


Read more: Reinventing the silver bullet (by Smits at IRC WASH)

"Isn't there some silver bullet..."

When you consider the significant amount time needed to set up and dismantle a project, there is very little time left to actually examine, analyze and execute all that is necessary to ensure the project is a success. Furthermore, expecting to change customs that have existed for generations in just a few short years can be unrealistic. Often times, slippage occurs and despite the best efforts of those involved, people go right back to their old ways.  

 

Read more: Understanding slippage: 8 ways going forward (WSSCC)

"Surely, we can fix this problem in 3 years..."

Sure, talking to the leaders about a sensitive topic like toilets is important, but often times the best people to talk to are the ones with the most to lose without access to clean water and toilets – the women, the disabled, the elderly, and the vulnerable. Including these groups in the project planning is crucial to ensuring its success.

 

Read more: Realizing Sanitation Access and Usage at Any Time, for Everyone and Everywhere (by SNV)

Read more: Gender Equality and Disability Inclusion within WASH (by WaterAid)

 

Note: Thanks to the CS WASH Fund for hosting resources.

"Let's talk to the male leaders of this community for solutions..."

Interesting Initiatives

You'd be surprised by how neat some of the initiatives some people have taken (with some amount of success) to improve the status of water, sanitation, and hygiene.  Below is a map of some of these initiatives that have been tried out, including years, details, and often links. Click on a point to learn more.

 
Cheuksin

Korean toilet goddess

Go to link