A group of students from Yoezerling Higher Secondary School were seen cleaning public toilets during Paro tshechu this week. They volunteered to do the service with Bhutan Toilet Organisation (BTO).

BTO and the students truly deserve our respect and commendations.

Whenever and wherever we have a large celebratory gathering, we have the problem of toilet – often the absolute lack of it. What ensues later is, to put it mildly, a disgustingly messy state of affair.

What ought we to read from all these?

We do not seem to give deserved importance to hygiene, that’s what. While we prettify the grounds with colourful flags and adorn the corners where VIPs will seat, by much meticulously and lavishly than is needed, we forget about the most private and essential space that the people will need.

What the students and the BTO showed us this week at Paro by doing what they did was a lesson that is both urgent and important. This is leading by being exemplar. And that’s why they are worthy of our notice and praise.

It is indeed heartwarming and encouraging that our young people are increasingly taking responsibility by showing us the way. BTO, a non-profit entity modelled after World Toilet Organisation, is led by young university graduates. At the heart of the organisation’s idea is to build a toilet culture in the country by inspiring and empowering individuals and communities through education, advocacy and social initiatives.

Building a culture isn’t always easy, especially inculcating positive culture. It takes effort and support of the people. It takes time. What we as responsible members of society can do is, at the very least, give BTO support that it critically needs to achieve a dream will benefit our communities and the nation at large.

Ministry of Health and organisations like BTO and the dzongkhag sectors are working to make public toilets available in all 20 dzongkhags through educational and refurbishment efforts. We have seen marked improvement in public toilets in the cities already. This is a good sign.

What is urgently needed is behavioural change in our people. That should be our focus – to educate the people about the importance of toilet manners and hygiene.

Raising a stink for sanitation is not enough. We will need to action it.