Worldwide, one-third of the world population suffers from bad sanitation. The founder of the "World Toilet Organization (WTO)," Jack Sim, wants to improve sanitation by building and updating toilets. Public relations strategy with a sense of humor has caught the attention of the world, and the media has recognized the importance of clean and safe toilets.
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Life is short, time is money.
Spending time wisely to make life meaningful.
When I thought about what it means to make my life meaningful, I thought about what is important to society, and what no one else was working on. It was then the words by Singaporean Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong struck me; “A clean public restroom is a sign of a refined society.” I decided to fold all but one of my businesses – kept one as a source of income - so I could concentrate on contributing to social change.
First, I put together the Restroom Association Singapore (RAS) in 1998. Through the media, I started speaking publicly about the importance of improving sanitation in restrooms. We needed a sense of humor to start talking about an issue that was considered to be taboo. Until all people could use clean and safe toilets anytime, any place, we continued our activities so everyone would keep paying attention to this issue.
World Toilet Summit takes the World Toilet Organization (WTO) to the next level
When I created the World Toilet Organization (WTO), I chose the name so it could be used in a joke, or become a conversation piece.
As a small NGO, we had to be creative in holding our first World Toilet Summit in 2011. I helped man booths at another exhibition and in turn, I asked to use the conference room for free – this plan benefited both parties.
Next, we needed to secure influential attendees at the summit. With the help of the Director of the National Environmental Agency (NEA), the Minister of Environment in Singapore joined the summit. We ended up having government officials from 15 countries attend. The media from around the globe covered the summit, as well as the World Toilet Organization.
Since then, the WTO, along with our activities, have gained more recognition. In 2013, all 193 countries in the UN recognized us, and World Toilet Day was officially recognized as one of the UN’s International Days.
The taboo, forever transformed into a hot topic.
A sense of humor, the booster.
In 2005, I successfully lobbied to change the building codes to install more stalls in women’s restrooms in Singapore. After some time, this building code became the world standard.
When the law passed, the issue became a topic of choice for the politicians. In India, former Prime Minister Modi won by a landslide by offering to build 110 million new toilets as a campaign promise, and actually acting on his promise upon his victory.
A taboo was transformed to a joke, then to a hot media topic. And after the law passed, toilets became a regular topic of discussion. It sure was a long road to get to this point. Humor helps people laugh, and listen, and act on what they’ve heard. Even the Hollywood actor Matt Damon now uses World Toilet Day to promote his NPO using humor.
There will always be scandals and disasters and other issues troubling our world, but I will remain steadfast in continuing my ‘toilet talk’ to keep the public interested in the importance of sanitation.
Born 1957 in Singapore. Jack grew up in the slums, but achieved success as an entrepreneur. When he lost much of his wealth in the recession in the 90’s at 40 years old, Jack decided to contribute more to society. In 1998, Jack founded Restroom Association of Singapore (RAS), and started speaking publicly about the importance of sanitation of public restrooms, considered to be a taboo at the time. In 2001, he established the World Toilet Organization (WTO) and declared November 19th as World Toilet day. He succeeded to change the building codes for public toilets in Singapore in 2005, which soon became the world standard.