TORONTO - A recent GlobeScan study of Nigerian women living in urban slums has highlighted the risks they run to their health and personal safety by using informal and outside toilet facilities – and the challenges associated with lack of adequate infrastructure in many developing nations.

GlobeScan was engaged by WaterAid to conduct a poll of women living in informal settlements in and around Lagos relating to access to sanitation and levels of concern around violence and intimidation towards women in this context. The research was intended to inform WaterAid’s media outreach and campaigning work around World Toilet Day 2012.

We found that, while informal and outside facilities were the most commonly used by women in informal settlements, these were also the kind of facilities where they felt the least safe (67% report feeling unsafe) and 60% reported the public toilets they use are generally unhygienic.

Our study found that many women felt compelled to use informal our outside facilities because of the cost of accessing public toilets. According to GlobeScan’s Radar tracking of public opinion across 20+ countries, unemployment and poverty are dominant concerns in Nigeria. This is borne out by the high proportion of women (67%) who report that the cost of using public facilities is a problem for them.

There is an extremely high demand among the women we surveyed (89%) who consider greater government investment in sanitation, even in relation to other problems such as education and transport infrastructure, to be “very important”.

Asked to give examples of harassment they had suffered, most examples given cited instances of intimidation or verbal harassment, which tended to relate to the tensions of close quarter living and sharing of facilities,

“People will insult you as if you are not human beings and neighbours”

Or male harassment and invasion of privacy,

“My neighbour or people passing will start staring at you and some will stare like they want to come and rape you.” 

WA2012 Q1

WA2012 Q6

About the Study

The poll was conducted between the 18th and 22nd of October 2012, using purposive sampling among a sample of 500 female adults (18-54). Face-to-face interviews were conducted in the urban slums of Ajegunle, Ijora Badia, Oko Agbon, and Otto-Oyingbo, in and around Lagos. In order to ensure the respondents felt at ease, given the sensitivity of the subject-matter, the interviewers ensured them of the confidentiality of their responses and the protection of their anonymity. Respondents were also provided with the details of local community organisations with whom they could, if needed, discuss their experiences further and seek support.

About WaterAid

WaterAid are an international non-governmental organisation. Their mission is to improve access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation in the world's poorest communities. WaterAid also work locally and internationally to change policy and practice and ensure that water, hygiene and sanitation's vital role in reducing poverty is recognised. For more information, visit 

Published in Poverty

The potency of water as a political issue in the world's major emerging economies was underlined again this week when it was reported that water levels had plunged in the Siang river in India's north-east. Allegations were levelled that China—where water stress is also a major concern—had diverted much of the water on the Chinese side of the border, preventing it reaching farmers and residents who depend upon on it in the Indian state of Assam.

This controversy is not surprising, given the central importance that Indian citizens attach to water as an issue, according to Globescan’s global attitudes tracking. Our most recent data reveal that Indians consider fresh water shortages to be the most serious of a range of environmental problems, with nearly seven in ten (68%) rating them as “very serious”—up nearly ten percentage points since 2008. Furthermore, water pollution was cited this year as the second most serious environmental problem, with 59% rating it “very serious,” well ahead of problems like climate change (47%).

With the Indian economy registering its seventh consecutive quarter of slow growth, water insecurity, already an important concern, is likely to become increasingly central to the politics of this huge emerging economy.

Published in Global Public Opinion