The Toilet Board Coalition would like to thank outgoing Independent Directors Cinthya Ramirez and Rajeev Kher for supporting and strengthening Toilet Board Coalition’s vision over the past years. The active engagement of our Members plays an integral role in the Coalition’s impact – accelerating business solutions to the sanitation crisis.
Q: When did you join the Toilet Board Coalition?
Cinthya: I had contact with the Toilet Board Coalition for approximately three years on an informal basis and joined as an Independent Director in 2019. When I was invited to join, I immediately said yes because I thought that I could bring a big-picture vision of global health and tie it with the work that the Coalition is doing.
Rajeev: I joined the Toilet Board Coalition five years ago, when the CEO at the time, reached out to me as they were seeking an Independent Director with hands-on experience in the sanitation sector. Having set up a business in the industry, I looked forward to supporting the Coalition and sharing my knowledge to help Sanitation Economy businesses become profitable.
Q: What sparked your interest in accelerating business solutions to the sanitation crisis?
Cinthya: I was part of the Toilet Board Coalition on a voluntary basis, aside from my job in health. Working in global health and coming from Colombia, a developing country, sensitized me to the reality that people live on the ground. Seeing the obvious connection between health and sanitation created an interest to support social entrepreneurs in developing countries working in this space.
Rajeev: I entered the field about 25 years ago when sanitation was far from people’s minds – before the Swachh Bharat Mission. I worked at a company in North America where I got an insight into improved hygiene and sanitation which made me wonder why sanitation is still a luxury to have. I wanted to make an impact in a space that I felt was very much lacking in my country, India. I decided I could either keep complaining about the smell or complain about how dirty it is in India. Or I could roll up my sleeves and become part of the system and try to solve it. And that’s exactly what I did. I quit my job and started my own business in sanitation.
Q: What does sanitation mean to you?
Cinthya: The direct implications of sanitation on health are so evident, and there is a lot of potential for the two sectors to work together to achieve bigger impact. This potential motivated me to join the Toilet Board Coalition. One of the projects that are currently undergoing at the Coalition and which I was thrilled to help spearhead, is a partnership between the Coalition and the AMR alliance, a community that is working to help contain the tide of antimicrobial resistance. I’m so happy this was finally established because objectively the sanitation sector is at the core of the actions we need to monitor to prevent infectious diseases. Partnering with the scientific community will help raise awareness about the appropriate use of antimicrobials. I’m looking forward to seeing the project evolve and succeed.
Rajeev: I look at sanitation not merely as toilets and toilet cleaning, but I look at it as preventative health. The people who work in such facilities are not mere janitors, but health workers, due to the revolution they are creating and will create. A huge portion of preventable illness arises from bad sanitation & hygiene. So, if these people are responsible to maintain a safe and hygienic toilet, I think the number of diseases automatically decreases. In time to come, I believe our perception of toilets will change and we will realise they are actually preventative Health Centers.
My passion for sanitation as a business is not just merely a passion, but a passion with a very firm belief when done in the right way, we’re looking at an industry which is actually healthcare.
Q: Why do you believe the private sector plays an important role in solving the sanitation crisis?
Cinthya: I am a true believer in the power that the private sector has to solve the problems of humanity. I’m not saying it’s the only sector, but I believe the private sector should always be part of the solution. In my day job I see the power of the private sector in action, bringing solutions that support government’s efforts in healthcare. Furthermore, the private sector is not a homogeneous entity. You have big corporations and a myriad of small entities working at a grassroots level – those that the Toilet Board Coalition Accelerator supports. I believe it’s fundamental to continue supporting these entrepreneurs because that’s where we’re going to see the most concrete impact and tailored solutions that people need.
Rajeev: The role of the government is to create policy, support systems and an avenue for the private sector to engage. The opportunity for the private sector is monetizing and innovating solutions – through advertising, developing sustainable models such as pay-per-use, adding an element of a shop, or creating a mechanism for revenue from the resources that come out of it. I think there’s an opportunity in sanitation as there is in any other business.
Q: What was your most memorable moment at the Toilet Board Coalition
Cinthya: I learned a lot from the interactions in the Steering Committee – sharing interesting conversations with other experts. It was amazing to connect with people in other industries and learn how they drive action. The most memorable moment was an event in 2021 where we gathered in Geneva, Switzerland, where we were able to meet the Coalition team and entrepreneurs in person for the first time since Covid, and I had the privilege of delivering a pitch to the investor community about the Toilet Board Coalition and its work.
Rajeev: I’ve had many, many memorable moments with the Toilet Board Coalition. A highlight was a big event we organized in Pune, India, where we invited the world and showcased what we were doing and the impact of the Sanitation Economy, to try to engage international organisations.
Since its establishment in 2015, the Toilet Board Coalition’s efforts, with the support of our Members, have graduated 58 SMEs, impacting more than 2.4 million people daily and unlocking US$22 million in finance. Our approach is building a Sanitation Economy that is thriving, circular and smart, inspiring the brightest entrepreneurs and bringing dignity to life.
We are in an exciting phase as we build our Membership base and mentor network to scale this proven model for impact. We have a 7-year strategy to accelerate towards 2030, improving 1 billion lives as we accelerate 1,000 thriving sanitation businesses, and unlock US$1 billion additional economic value and US$2 billion investment into the Sanitation Economy. Are you interested in becoming an Independent Director at the Toilet Board Coalition? Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.