Answering the call of nature at the #BigSquat
Bill Oddie OBE joined women from across the UK beside a giant inflatable loo outside St Paul’s Cathedral today to raise awareness of the issues facing women without toilets.
The broadcaster and comic fronted a school choir performing the ‘Toilet Song’ at an event for World Toilet Day. The ‘Big Squat’ in the City of London was held in solidarity with the more than 1 billion women and girls worldwide who don’t have access to safe sanitation.
The event was organised by the charity Toilet Twinning which helps provide proper toilets, clean water and hygiene training in some of the world’s poorest communities.
Bill Oddie said: ‘I have to own up there have been times in my career when I have been accused of resorting to “toilet humour”. Not these days because it definitely is not funny when you realise that there are millions of people all over the world who do not have much or any sanitation. Such conditions may bring disease and death. Only when this situation is corrected will we be able to smile.’
The lunchtime event featured short speeches by Bill Oddie, Canon Jonathan Brewster, Residentiary Canon at St Paul’s, and Toilet Twinning CEO Lorraine Kingsley.
Bill Oddie was joined by choirs from Loreto Sixth-Form College in Hulme, Manchester, and Swanlea School in Whitechapel to sing the ‘Toilet Song, written by Bill’s wife, Laura Beaumont. The MumSing women’s choir from Enfield also performed.
Toilet Twinning chose to focus on the more than 1 billion women and girls who lack a toilet – because they are particularly vulnerable to attack as they squat in the bush. And, if there are no toilets at school, girls miss class during their periods – or drop out of school altogether.
Laura Beaumont, an award-winning song- and script-writer, explained why she donated the song to Toilet Twinning: ‘As a person who goes to the toilet more than most (ask my friends), I feel Toilet Twinning addresses one of the most basic needs of every human being.
‘For women and girls particularly, privacy and dignity whilst going to the loo is crucially important. You only have to see the appalling conditions that some people face to realise how lucky we are to have access on a daily basis to warm, sweet-smelling, well-equipped public and private conveniences. Making people aware of this and helping to do something about it is a truly powerful thing and I am proud to be a small part of that.’
Toilet Twinning CEO Lorraine Kingsley said more needed to be done to address the global sanitation crisis. ‘It is heartbreaking that in 2018 children are still dying of diarrhoea simply because they lack something as basic as a latrine. Sanitation can seem a dirty word, a taboo subject, even in the development sector – but we believe that even the most simple toilet offers families the chance to take their first big step out of poverty. Everything follows from that.
‘A donation of just £60 enables you to twin your toilet with a latrine overseas and help a family living in poverty. We are so grateful for everyone who came along today for helping us highlight this important day.’
Rev Jayne Bazeley, a URC minister in east London and Toilet Twinning volunteer, was motivated to give her time after living in India for two years. ‘When I tell people that I am a volunteer speaker for Toilet Twinning, they usually laugh. Toilets are kind of funny. Really though, having no proper sanitation is no laughing matter. In some cultures, including India, it’s not acceptable for women to go to the toilet outdoors in daylight, so they have to either not eat or drink, or hold it for hours. If my being laughed at can help these sisters of mine to be safe and healthy, it’s worth it.’