New Delhi, REUTERS - A New Delhi based start-up aims to help women across India overcome the problems of urinating in unhygienic public toilets, a common problem across the populous country.
Made from waterproof cardboard, Pee Buddy is a single use funnel which allows women to micturate without having to squat on a dirty toilet seat and risk infection. The user simply needs to hold Pee Buddy between her legs, directly under the flow area. They should tilt their hips slightly forward, ensuring the funnel is tilted downwards. Having poured the urine into the toilet, they should dispose of Pee Buddy in the nearest bin.
It’s the brainchild of Delhi-based entrepreneur, Deep Bajaj, who came up with the idea during a road trip when the wife of a friend complained about not finding a clean toilet on the journey.
“On every trip we would see this as a pressing problem that while men could just have their beer or whatever they wanted to have on their way. Females would always be restricted and they would reject eight out of 10 toilets where we’d stop and for obvious reasons. If you look at the condition of public toilets in India, especially on the highways, and this includes the best of restaurants and petrol pumps, you stop anywhere and you don’t get a good toilet,” Bajaj told Reuters.
Having perfected the optimal shape and disposable material, Bajaj and his partners were surprised to receive short shrift from various women’s stores when they tried to garner interest in their prototype.
“When I took it to the store purchase managers and all and for obvious reasons it was difficult to understand I am not kidding, I am really talking about a product that offers a solution and it shouts from the rooftop saying it’s freedom to stand and pee for women. So initially because they couldn’t understand that something like this can work and it’s not a joke we were actually shown the door,” said Bajaj.
Eventually his persistence paid off, having successfully sought recommendations for Pee Buddy from gynecologists and obstetricians. Now it’s on sale in selected Indian pharmacies and online.
According to the figures provided by Delhi’s civic agencies, there are more than 10 times the number of public toilets for men than women in the national capital.
Dirty toilet seats are a breeding ground for bacteria and can cause infections, such as Urinary Tract Infections (UTI). Development organization WaterAid says that diseases spread through dirty water and poor sanitation are the fifth biggest killer of women world-wide, causing more deaths than AIDS, diabetes or breast cancer.
Men urinating along roadsides and on footpaths is a common sight across Indian cities, but this is not an attractive option for women.
Student Priayanka Rawat said she would consider buying Pee Buddy. “First of all the toilets stink badly and it makes me very uncomfortable to use them as they are very unhygienic. Due to these factors I have to control and tell myself that I will only pee once I get home,” she said.
Priced at around 20 rupees ($0.315) per unit, Pee Buddy is available in packs of five, 10, and 20.
Commuter Madhurima Mishra said the product has proved the answer to her fears of contracting infections from a dirty toilet seat.
“I was not sure about the availability of the product. Now that I have used it I found it really user-friendly and I am a working woman and I have to use the public toilets a lot of time and I have this fear of infections so at that time it’s like a boon to me,” said Mishra.
Bajaj hopes to get government support to make the product available at subsidized prices in rural India. Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, launched the ambitious Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean Indian Mission) in October 2014, to improve the poor state of sanitation in the country within five years.
In rural areas without safe toilets, women and girls have to venture outdoors to relieve themselves, often at night, putting them at risk of sexual harassment and assault.
In 2006 the World Bank estimated that India was losing 6.4 percent of gross domestic product annually because of poor sanitation.