This social entrepreneur aims to provide female travelers with access to clean toilets across Kerala

In August 2021, social entrepreneur Lakshmi Menon decided to embark on a road trip from Kochi to Kasargod (265 km) to raise awareness about conscious and responsible consumption, in light of the closure of many small businesses during the pandemic.

“There have been so many cases of people killing themselves because their small businesses failed. Much of the population had started doing all their shopping online, which affected the local business community and their livelihoods. It was imperative that people start buying from small traders again,” she says. His history.

Lakshmi is the social entrepreneur behind Ammoommathiriwhich sells cotton wicks made by destitute elderly people, the famous Chekutty rag doll which was the symbol of the floods that hit Kerala in 2018, CoVeed initiative that encouraged people to contribute to families affected by groceries and Shaaya, a project that made mattresses from PPE waste for COVID care.

She called the trip Travelinamed after the Demon God Maveli, a part of Kerala mythology and who the Keralites believe makes a trip to the city every year during the Onam festival.

Meanwhile, Lakshmi linked her journey to different rooms on the Clubhouse app where she interacted extensively with listeners who guided her on what to eat, where to stay and where to visit along the way. These interactions, she says, enriched the experience.

But the road trip also presented a challenge that women have always faced.

“When I started the road trip, I was not prepared for the cruel lack of clean toilets along the route. Before, we stopped in famous restaurants, at friends or relatives, but it was not not possible because of the pandemic,” she says.

Lakshmi had to cut her five-day travel plan and return to Kochi. It also led to the launch of her new initiative, Toiless, a project that aims to minimize the ‘toil’ women endure in dirty toilets.

The idea is simple. The projects hope to forge links with hotels, restaurants, shops, wedding venues and other venues to make it easier to “pay and use” clean toilets for women traveling across Kerala. In short, it was not necessary to build new restrooms for travelers, but to use existing ones, especially in places like wedding halls, which remain empty for half the year.

Anyone who owns one or more of these places can become a ‘Travel ally’ with Toiless. All they have to do is meet certain specifications.

“The floors of the toilets must be dry, there must be a sanitary tap (bidet), tissue paper, hooks to place a dupatta or bag, a trash can with a lid, a small film to place a mobile and keys and if possible a mirror,” says Lakshmi.

The Travel Ally can add more features as it sees fit. A minimum of Rs 50 can be charged for a single use.

Toiless is an initiative to alleviate the woes of women traveling across Kerala by providing them with access to clean toilets.

Now the problem was how to board these travel allies and direct the female travelers to the restrooms.

“We needed to develop an app but I was quoted around Rs 10 lakh. During one of the Clubhouse sessions, a Malayali technician from Qatar offered to develop a web-based application that will help travelers locate clean toilets along their route,” she says.

Lakshmi also uses Instagram extensively to popularize the webpage and add more information about the initiative.

She believes Toiless will go beyond clean toilets to become a powerful marketing and branding initiative.

She elaborates, “When a woman visits a furniture store, boutique, restaurant or other commercial venues, she can browse which, in turn, will contribute to brand identity, recognition and higher walk-in conversion. All this is apart from the traffic generated on social networks and the money they receive for using the toilet. In addition, young entrepreneurs can rent a small part of these places and start businesses providing car accessories, women’s and children’s accessories and maybe even a small cafe.

While Toiless is available to both men and women, Lakshmi says, “it’s only guaranteed for women.”

The recent Kerala Travel Mart conference gave impetus to the Toiless initiative.

“Finding clean restrooms is a major challenge for tour guides in the travel industry. I was told that before the start of each trip, four clean restrooms are identified and the itinerary planned around that,” says -she.

Toiless has integrated more than 20 travel allies so far, but with Lakshmi being the only person behind the project, where she sometimes has to physically visit the place to inspect it, she hopes more traction on social media will lead to more allies and women to the cause.

Enter Gomathy, the cute mascot of Toiless. She teaches etiquette and how to have empathy for the person who cleans and maintains the restroom.

“We have posters of Gomathy in the toilets of every Travel Ally, also emphasizing the dignity of work. If you find it difficult to clean up after yourself, how can you expect others to do it for you,” Lakshmi asks.