Answering nature’s call is one of life’s few necessities. But finding a hygienic and comfortable public toilet in Cambodia remains a daunting challenge for most people. Add to that a wheelchair, a disability, old age and even pregnancy, and the challenge to also find somewhere accessible makes life that much harder for millions of people.
To raise awareness of this problem and encourage an inclusive environment for the disabled in Cambodia, one charity has come up with a novel idea.
The Cambodian Disabled People’s Organisation (CDPO) – in conjunction with Australian Aid and WaterAid – is holding its first Public Toilet Photo Competition this January, encouraging photographers to capture the best and most unique pictures of public toilets in Cambodia.
The competition began on December 26 and will run until January 15. It is open to everyone regardless of disability and age, with the winning photographer receiving a $150 coupon, while those placed second and third will receive a $100 coupon each.
Training Assistant at CDPO Mean Vibol Ratanak – who is wheelchair-bound himself, said: “Public toilets are everywhere, but they are not accessible to everyone. So when we started this photography project, we wanted to find a creative way to engage young people and get them to take an interest in public toilets,” he said.
Founded in 1999, CDPO is based in Phnom Penh and most of their staff are disabled. It works closely with the government in providing feedback and highlighting the concerns of Cambodia’s disabled community, as well as guiding future government disability policies.
It also helps establish and works closely with Disabled People’s Organisations (DPO) across Cambodia to promote awareness and support work at the commune, district and provincial levels. They now have 75 DPOs working in every province in Cambodia.
Vibol Ratanak said the goal of the photography competition was to “change people’s ideas” about those with disabilities.
“There are two goals for this programme. The first is to change people’s ideas about those with disabilities and the second is to highlight this problem for disabled people not having access to many public toilets."
“We hope young people in Cambodia will gain a clear understanding about the issues facing people with disabilities. If they’re a manager of a company or a government official, we hope it will influence how they interact with co-workers with disabilities,” he said.
CDPO have invited officials from the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation, the Ministry of Environment, Phnom Penh Municipality and Water Aid to judge the entries.
Vibol Ratanak said that as Facebook was the most popular medium for young people today, the competition is being conducted via the social media platform. He said that CDPO had already received approximately 20 entries so far, and were expecting more.
For more information on this novel competition and to submit an entry, visit the CDPO website or their Facebook page: @CDPO.org.