However, about 250 million people in rural India have no access to a toilet — their idea of it is an open field or a railway track.
On November 30, right below the top trending topic on Twitter #FarmersMarch, there was another handle trending at the No. 2 spot #CloseOpenDefecation, a campaign designed by the advertising agency Dentsu Impact and We Are Water Foundation, aimed at addressing a human crisis, which is our shameful reality.
While we go about our daily business in our urban bubble, we seldom pay attention to the condition of the vast majority of our countrymen living on the fringes of our urban spaces and villages. We take our blessings for granted — water, electricity, transport and toilet. Yes, toilet — we have them in our homes, in public spaces — clean, hygienic and private.
However, about 250 million people in rural India have no access to a toilet — their idea of it is an open field or a railway track. Needless to say, this system of open defecation leads to several issues, which are obviously hygiene and health-related, and not to mention the countless cases of rapes and abuses on the road to open defecation.
To bring this scenario to the fore, We Are Water Foundation, the CSR wing of Roca Group, and Dentsu Impact, the creative agency for Roca and Parryware, have come together to launch a movement to address open defecation.
On November 19, the World Toilet Day, the bathroomware brand ran a social experiment at Gurgaon, Haryana. A makeshift public toilet was constructed. But when people went inside, they were in for a surprise. They came face to face with a sight, which is a reality for about 250 million people in rural India — a railway track for a defecating area.
Children and women holding placards delivered the hard facts and adverse effects of open defecation. This jolted everyone out of their reverie. It made them uncomfortable but also sensitised them to the plight of a vast section of our population used to defecating in the open. Thus was born, #CloseOpenDefaecation. Immediately, people pledged to #CloseOpenDefecation by signing up on the We Are Water Foundation portal. With each sign up/pledge, the foundation is contributing to the construction of more toilets.
Ankur Garg and Debanjan Basak, creative directors of Dentsu Impact were approached and they helmed this project. In their words: “The World Toilet Day presented us with an opportunity to exploit our own creativity in a way that could actually bring about a change. And who better to partner with than an international bathroomware brand. We are extremely proud, excited and happy about the idea and execution. Hope it does even better.”
They further added that: “The campaign has garnered 428,000 views so far. And it is just the beginning. It is the start of a huge mission to end open defecation in India. For this, not just government initiatives, but individual participation is important. People with means and ideas must come together to contribute to put a stop to this human disaster.”
Debanjan and Ankur are not resting yet. They are excited about doing something beyond traditional client briefs and marketing endeavours. They are hopeful about the power of the digital medium, which has enabled them to reach out to a vast audience within a short while and gather their support. They want more people to come into its fore. They wish to invite and generate more unique ideas to spread consciousness.