Changing the Toilet System, One Squat at a Time
Right from the execution of programmes for sanitation and hygiene, to implementing more efficient disposal systems, the Swachh Bharat Mission (Clean India Mission) is taking India by storm, and the rewards are everyone’s to reap. India, under the guidance of the Hon. PM Modi has started its journey towards eradicating open defecation; several issues have been pinpointed under the Swachh Bharat initiative and the lack of public toilets has been identified as a critical problem in our country.
With this undertaking, India has been engulfed in a wave of positive change; across industries, people are becoming more aware of the role they must play, to make India a better and more sustainable land.
With the changes that are being seen in the country now, and with awareness at an all-time high, it is my belief that more than the need to make public sanitation a priority, it is imperative to take the right steps in that direction. The evolution of sanitation cannot be restricted to the quantity of public toilets available for people to use. Instead, it must be rooted in the quality of the product we are putting out there — failing which the behavioural problems of public sanitation will continue to plague our community.
SquatEase came into existence, because I realised that sanitation is one of the most important aspects in driving cleanliness in any nation and is also a major driver of wellbeing in any community. The aim was to create a comfortable and pain-free squat toilet, which is easy to use, safer and more hygienic to use in a public space as compared to western toilets. SquatEase is an ergonomically designed squat toilet pot which not only helps the user to squat better but it also makes the squat toilet unidirectional which makes flushing and maintenance of the toilet much easier using less water.
During my research which ultimately informed my design, I found a number of issues currently looming over the public sanitation scenario in our country. Apart from the lack of education about the need for healthy and clean sanitation, I identified issues like poor accessibility, health concerns, issues with cleanliness and maintenance, and the factor of missing comfort. Having said that, the most glaring issue was that of inculcating a behavioural change in people, and their toilet-using habits. In the current scenario, most people squat on the Indian toilet with their heels up and balance themselves on their toes because they find it difficult to squat with a flat foot. Bearing this in mind, I came to the conclusion that toilets can be only improved if the product itself suggests or creates a positive behaviour change in the users.
After a deep understanding of the challenges facing the public sanitation system, I set out to design something unique in this space; a toilet which would potentially rid us of existing sanitation woes. Problems like falling backwards while trying to squat are completely resolved as the design helps maintain a good centre of gravity for the user.
Once the design reached a stage where it allowed for a clean and hygienic use of the toilet, my next focus was to equip SquatEase in a way where differently abled individuals can also easily access the facility; floor markings for the visually impaired ensure that SquatEase is used correctly and in keeping with a hygienic code. The design itself was tailored to reduce the stress on knees, hips, and thighs, allowing people with joint problems to use SquatEase in a relatively comfortable way.
The Way Forward
I knew from the get go that I have got a product which had the potential to challenge existing sanitation systems, and make them more conducive for everyday use. After a year dedicated to comprehending the current scenario, articulating ways to better the current scenario, and a new qualifier for the current scenario, I managed to develop SquatEase, with the goal of making the public toilet clean, easy to maintain and comfortable to use.
When making a nation-wide change, I think the most important thing is to take a step in the right direction, with the right information. This step, backed by careful execution from the government of India, has the potential to combat a problem which has plagued our nation for decades. SquatEase is in line with this goal and hopefully, will aid in the implementation of a transformed sanitation system in our country.