His motto “Live a useful life” is what made this man leave his successful business and embark upon a journey that would see him become the voice for those who could not speak out; and fight for the dignity, rights and health for the vulnerable and poor worldwide.
This renowned businessman could have chosen to champion any major world cause – instead he chose to highlight the plight of the humble “toilet”. Jack Sim had the guts to put the spotlight on a serious issue which had previously been left in the dark – the issue of filthy public toilets and poor sanitation. “The human tragedy of the 2.5 billion people in the world still without access to proper sanitation” propelled Jack to take action!
The following are a few questions which Jack took the time to answer for this issue of Inspire.
Why did you choose this cause – the toilet?
We need to address non-charismatic agendas which are badly neglected. Otherwise, people suffer without remedies. The toilet is a taboo issue, like Women’s liberation, Leprosy, HIV/AIDS, Gay Rights, Aparthied, Slavery, etc..
All these issues were not talked about before but once the taboo is broken, new freedom, justice or remedies are found.
I broke the taboo on toilets and sanitation by playing a pun on WTO and catching the attention of the global media. Through our unique mix of humour and serious facts, we attracted the politicians to the media as well. We started to call our founding day 19 November as World Toilet Day and everyone now celebrates it globally. We started a series of 13 annual World Toilet Summits and appointed a different city to host it every year. All expenses were paid by the host but we brought massive media coverage each year to the event. Soon, Prime Minister Hashimoto of Japan successfully tabled 2008 as UN International Year of Sanitation, Gates Foundation invested millions of dollars Reinventing the Toilet; actors/actresses like Matt Damon, Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Vidya Balan and others started talking about toilets.
Last year, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted 19 SiM November as UN World Toilet Day. This is a permanent milestone we’ve achieved.
Tell us a bit about the ‘Sanitation Crisis’ in the world and about how this can be solved?
There are now 2.5 Billion people without access to proper sanitation. This is a pathetic situation but it is solvable if we transform this problem into a massive business opportunity to sell toilets. To be successful, we need to drive demand by making toilets sexy, a status symbol and an object of desire. As we drive demand for toilets, we need to create efficient supply. This can be done through creating many micro-entrepreneurs with small scale decentralised factories producing latrines treatment system and toilet shelters. We named this franchise SaniShop.
By creating local jobs and income, we can drive sanitation supply sustainably. We believe in the market forces instead of the charity model. Many toilets that were given in the past were not used as toilets. Instead, they’ve become storerooms. We need people to want to have a toilet and want to use it. We need to make the toilet a normal thing.
How can our readers in Brunei support the WTO movement?
I’d like Bruneian readers to celebrate 19 Nov World Toilet Day http://www.worldtoiletday.org. We have The Urgent Run that is going globally. Please register at http://www.urgentrun.com to start your own run.
What advice would you give to the people who want to do something to ‘change the world’?
If you want to change the world, find a Big Problem that is not yet solved and go and solve it. When you start, don’t stop until it is solved, and bring along as many people as possible. Share the journey with everyone. You may be the leader but you are not the Mission. Make sure you put the Mission before yourself.
Enjoy Your Toilet.