Talkin’ Sh*t in Europe

June 3, 2011
Molly Danielsson writes from Europe: Last week Mat and I got to meet Thilo Panzerbieter of the German Toilet Organization. Thilo is a civil engineer who was working on installing ecological sanitation systems in the Zambia when he decided to focus his attention on advocating for sanitation work in his home country.   Thilo's two advocacy campaigns are on the cutting edge of awareness raising for sanitation.   I was familiar with phrases such as "Sanitation is Dignity"  that came out of his campaigns.  This gets to two points: while I hadn't seen any of his campaigns (the first of which was staged in 2006 in Germany and is now on a rotating tour around the globe), I had felt the impact of that work through my sanitation activists friends at PHLUSH.

What’s interesting about Thilo is he uses the taboo of sanitation as a strength for communicating the importance of the sanitation crisis. He took lessons from the HIV/AIDS campaigns of the late 90s that focused on mainstream media, rock concerts, movies and the energy of youth culture to spark a change in attitudes towards discussing something as taboo as sex.  His focus has been on clear and simple messages backed by facts. The exhibits ‘Voices for Sanitation’ and ‘Where Would You Hide’ are currently on tour around the world.

“Toilitised World” , the current project, is a participatory approach to address sanitation in local schools in Berlin. It’s kind of like Community Led Total Sanitation, only for 13-16 year olds in Berlin who have access to flush toilets, but the bathrooms are still a mess. He facilitates a conversation among teachers, principals and students to discuss the sanitation situation in the schools to initiate positive change. He uses this discussion as an entry point to discuss sanitation situations for kids in developing countries. I was inspired to see someone introducing the true participatory processes to youngsters.

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Our Mission Through education and advocacy, PHLUSH helps local governments and citizen groups to provide equitable public restroom availability and to prepare for a pipe-breaking seismic event with appropriate ecological toilet systems.

Our Vision Toilet availability is a human right and well-designed sanitation systems restore health to our cities, our waters and our soils.

Public Hygiene Lets Us Stay Human (PHLUSH) was founded in Portland, Oregon and today collaborates with groups across North America.

PHLUSH is a member of the World Toilet Organization and a partner in the Sustainable Sanitation Alliance.

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