Initiative: It’s day four of Paro Tshechu. People from all walks of life have gathered at the Rinpung Dzong to witness the festival. The crowds at the tshechu are in their best of attire, speck and preen all.
Among this crowd, there’s a group of students from Yoezerling Higher Secondary School with masked faces and gloved hands. They are the volunteers of social organization – Bhutan Toilet Organization (BTO). They are cleaning the public toilets in the area.
Passang Tshering, the founder of the organization, spearheads the initiative. BTO was born on November 19, 2014, World Toilet Day.
While other organizations and government agencies initiate such activities from time to time to promote healthy behaviours, Passang Tshering said that BTO’s primary mandate is to provide clean toilets and inculcate proper toilet manners.
“We have good public toilet infrastructures in the country but people fail to make proper use of the facilities,” said Passang Tshering. “It’s a behavioural problem and, with certain advocacy and practical demonstrations, it should change for the better.”
The team arrived a few days before the tshechu began. After consulting with the dzongkhag administration, the group cleaned and maintained three public toilets near the dzong area.
Unlike other public toilets, toilets here today look absolutely clean with no odour. There is water flowing from the taps. Buckets, soaps and toilet papers are readily available.
Scenario wasn’t the same when the BTO first arrived on the location. Typical for any public-owned toilets in the country, the toilet pots were flooded with human excreta, sticks and stones.
Sharing one of his experiences in cleaning public toilets, BTO’s programme officer, Tshering Nidup, said that there was some hesitations from the volunteers when they were made to clean faeces overflowing the pots.
“It was difficult, but someone had to start. With gloves in our hands and masks on our faces, we put our hands into the “deep-shit” and after a while the volunteers followed,” said Tshering Nidup. “It is gross but we don’t mind getting our hands dirty to serve the nation.”
The 25-year-old graduate from Sherubtse College, Tshering Nidup, never thought that after 16 years of hard work and sleepless nights of studying he would land up cleaning human faeces in public toilets.
“Everyone expects you to be working in an office after graduation, but for me, it turned out to be different,” said Tshering. “Yes, it is a dirty job like they say and at times embarrassing too when the elders ask what do I do for a living.”
Tshering, however, believes that someday those elders will look up to him and appreciate his hard work. Friends make fun of him, sometimes, but he doesn’t mind the comments.
“I’ve full support from my family and friends and I’m proud of it,” said Tshering.
According to the organization, more than 3,000 people have made use of the toilet in two days. Community police and volunteers guard the area and direct the public to the toilet.
Passang Tshering said that if the initiative works well in Paro, similar activities will be carried out in other parts of the country.