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Why Are Clean Ladies Toilets The Last Priority Of Indian Workplaces?

Posted: March 12, 2021

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With more women joining the workforce and with so many start-ups, clean, hygienic ladies toilets are now a necessity – when will we wake up?

One of my biggest pet peeves as a working woman has been either unhygienic or only unisex washrooms in the offices.

Understandably, every company comes up with an office setup that matches their current financial position. Nonetheless, for a woman employee, it becomes cumbersome to work effectively in the absence of hygiene. 

A lack of clean ladies toilets even in upmarket Mumbai workplaces

During my stint in the corporate world, I was responsible for driving new business development in the advertising domain. This gave me an incredible opportunity to meet with a lot of corporates; established as well as upcoming, that were mostly headquartered in Mumbai and Western India.

The conclusion that I drew based on the number of client visits that I did over a period of time, was that there was a lack of cleanliness, and low priority attached to clean ladies toilets for the female workforce.

(I even came up with my amateur theory; to gauge the financial standing and HR policies of an organisation: To get a quick preview of the financial health of a company. just visit its restroom. The hygiene level maintained is almost directly proportional to the health of its balance sheet.

P.S. You may apply this theory in practice during your next business meeting or interview call.)

This has been my observation in a few cities including Mumbai, which also happens to be India’s commercial/ financial capital. If this is the scenario of the tier-one city; one could easily develop a deep sense of repugnance while visualising the plight of women working in tier 2 and tier 3 cities.

It’s ironic how a company management conveniently forgets a primary human need when they plan to recruit individuals.

Inhuman working conditions with dirty, badly maintained washrooms

This is the age of equality and egalitarianism, yet one just can’t negate the basic biological difference between genders. There is a need for good, hygienic ladies toilets, as the way the anatomy of women is structured, they are by nature vulnerable and prone to infections.

I began my career in a logistics company. It was a subsidiary of one of the biggest conglomerates of our nation. While people working at the head office enjoyed all the comforts, it housed unimaginably dirty washrooms at the branch levels where the real business happened.

The women, though handful compared to their male counterparts at the branches, had a tough time visiting the office loos. 

A few of them disclosed that they bunked office on the initial heavy flow days of periods, and the ones who had to attend didn’t bother to change their sanitary pads during office hours due to the absence of an appropriate disposal system. Some completely avoided taking bio breaks; a few also restricted their water intake while at work.

Just look at the percentages of morbidity dirty ladies toilets lead to

How does one expect someone to work with due diligence and focus under such inhuman conditions?

How is it that the luxury of good sanitation and hygiene are restricted to those working at the head office – and this holds true for a large number of organisations! A number of my friends have shared that a majority of mid-sized companies disregard hygiene and sanitation in totality thus causing great inconvenience to their female staff. 

As per statistics, more than 50% of women suffer from a urinary tract infection (UTI) at least once in their lifetime, with a good 30-40% chance of it getting relapsed. Also, three out of four women suffer from a vaginal yeast infection at least once in their life span.

A recurring UTI can result in kidney infections, and further on may lead to low blood pressure. In some cases, it has even cost lives. Additionally, inadequate water intake can cause kidney stones and trigger digestion issues. Neglecting genital cleanliness for a long time can lead to cervical cancer, or other lethal health complications.

When will workplaces wake up and smell the stink?

Despite these statistics being easily available in the public domain, firms still have an offhand attitude towards maintaining hygienic restrooms. Perhaps, they feel that since a very minuscule amount of time is spent inside the toilets, it shouldn’t bother its employees. Unfortunately, their nonchalance is affecting the health of its women workforce.

Irrespective of the size of an organisation, I have tried to suggest few viable solutions for maintaining hygienic washrooms at workplace.

  • Washroom etiquette posters and stickers can be used on the door and walls of the toilets as a reminder for the user to keep it clean for the next person. 
  • Have an open discussion about women’s health and the importance of hygiene with the employees during induction, training, and through regular mailers.
  • Companies may also include in-house sanitary audits as one of the integral parts of their HR policy.

The above discussed are some pointers which if worked upon, can assist in building a healthy and female-friendly organisation.

A plea to the Government of India

I would like to conclude by sharing a valuable thought.

The Government of India has been vocal about encouraging start-ups and envisaging a self-reliant India. Hence, it becomes the responsibility of an entrepreneur to strive towards creating a cordial, healthy and safe work culture. 

So, remember to be caring towards women employees, as women by nature are sincere, nurturing and dislike frequent job-hops. Give them that basic comfort and flexibility to thrive, perform, and move up the organisation ladder; by doing so one can not just retain them, but encourage a lot more to join the workforce.

Let’s take the first step towards Swachh Bharat by providing a clean and decent work ambience for all. Make sure the offices have clean, hygienic ladies toilets.

First published here.

Image source: YouTube

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Finance professional,an avid blogger. I write to keep the child in me happy and

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