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Willesden Green writer Yvonne Bailey-Smith features in WaterAid’s new online Toilet Stories exhibition

PUBLISHED: 17:19 16 November 2020 | UPDATED: 12:50 18 November 2020

Yvonne Bailey-Smith is participating in Toilet Stories, an online exhibition from WaterAid. Picture: Elena Heatherwick

Yvonne Bailey-Smith is participating in Toilet Stories, an online exhibition from WaterAid. Picture: Elena Heatherwick

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A Willesden Green writer has told of her life-long interest in toilets in the hope of transforming the lives of those who don’t have one.

WaterAid's exhibition highlights how up to five children a month are dying from diseases which are spread directly by the lack of toilets in a village. Picture: Elena HeatherwickWaterAid's exhibition highlights how up to five children a month are dying from diseases which are spread directly by the lack of toilets in a village. Picture: Elena Heatherwick

Yvonne Bailey-Smith, mother of novelist Zadie Smith, actor Ben Bailey Smith, and writer Luc Skyz, features in WaterAid’s new online exhibition, Toilet Stories, which has launched to mark UN World Toilet Day on November 19.

The exhibition, supported by People’s Postcode Lottery, includes stories and portraits from Rwanda, Madagascar and the UK and explores the lives of those affected by a lack of decent toilets - one in four people globally - and those whose lives have been transformed by them.

Yvonne first experienced a flushing toilet on a flight to England from Jamaica in 1969 when she was 15.

She said: “My travels around the world have taken me to many countries and given me many toilet experiences, from the most basic to those that are super-modern and stylish. Indeed a friend gently pointed out to me that I’m a little obsessed with toilets. She was correct,”

WaterAid's exhibition highlights how up to five children a month are dying from diseases which are spread directly by the lack of toilets in a village. Picture: Elena HeatherwickWaterAid's exhibition highlights how up to five children a month are dying from diseases which are spread directly by the lack of toilets in a village. Picture: Elena Heatherwick

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Globally, two billion people live without a decent toilet of their own, exposing them to health risks such as cholera and diarrhoea.

In the exhibition the 64-year-old, who is a WaterAid supporter, recalls her experience of growing up in a village in Jamaica. Her family’s latrine, built by her grandfather, replaced an older one that she feared would collapse. He built a new latrine with two toilets side-by-side which made a big impression on her.

“I was thrilled to be asked to be part of ‘Toilet Stories’,” she added. “It’s so true that every toilet tells a story.

Yvonne Bailey-Smith, who is participating in WaterAid's Toilet Stories exhibition was born in Jamaica. Picture: Elena HeatherwickYvonne Bailey-Smith, who is participating in WaterAid's Toilet Stories exhibition was born in Jamaica. Picture: Elena Heatherwick

“I’m in the fortunate position to be able to share my own toilet experiences, but for millions of people, this isn’t the case. It’s absolutely unacceptable that in this day and age so many people are without a toilet – access to a decent toilet is a human right. Things must change.”

Tim Wainwright, WaterAid chief, said: “WaterAid is excited to be launching our new exhibition, giving toilets the attention they deserve. The world’s sanitation crisis is trapping billions of people in poverty.

“Decent toilets, together with clean water and good hygiene, are essential for people to live healthy, productive and dignified lives.

Visit toilet-stories.wateraid.org/


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