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August 7, 2017
Learning about water, sanitation and hygiene through graffiti art

Every day, urban art becomes more prominent throughout cities. They resonate with people from different and diverse social backgrounds, create a sense of belonging, give new life and beauty to urban spaces and in some cases even act as powerful education and awareness raising tools. Building upon this concept, the PRO-WATER joint programme promoted by the Sustainable Development Goals Fund (SDG Fund) in the Philippines has facilitated the development of a series of community murals to educate on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (iWaSH). The program gathers about twenty school children from the regions of Cawayan, Monreal and Milagros, Masbate, Sindangan and Zamboanga Del Norte.

Motivated by World Water Day, the programme specialist of PRO-WATER decided to create a series of workshops regrading mural designs which focused on iWaSH themes, followed by a day of painting in which the children gather their sketches and headed towards the murals and on the third and final day, the community murals were officially inauguration. “If every child or person sees what is drawn on the community murals, they could become more aware of proper hygiene, what steps to take to achieve it or where water comes from”, said Cherrymie Tupas, mother of one of the kids in the community of Bgy Talib, Masbate.

One of the greatest challenges which faces the program is that the communities which benefit from the program are located in remote areas throughout the Philippines, with a vast majority of them lacking data or cellular coverage or access. As such, the community murals are considered one of the best communication vehicles to popularize and create awareness on issues relating to water, sanitation and hygiene, promote access to tools and plumbing equipment and materials, diffuse information regarding water quality, improve sanitation installations and domestic technologies and promote better habits at a local level.

Collective efforts, participatory social action

The creation of the iWaSH community murals has allowed the different communities to work together, side by side. Although the participant numbered around 20 school children plus their mothers, it nonetheless resulted in the community becoming involved and taking an interest in the murals and resulted in members of the community collaborating with the kids. As a result, the iWaSH community mural projected ended up being a collective effort and a social action. Community members of all ages contributed to the community dialogue in topics regarding water, sanitation and hygiene. During this period of time, a lot of ideas and discussion were had, such as where water comes from, in what different ways is water utilize and ideas of what constitutes proper hygiene were exchanged between members of the community, among many other discussions.

Moreover, the community murals managed to bring attention and focus to issues regarding iWaSH while also taking into account gender perspectives and providing more female participants including young girls and women with a greater role in their communities. Among the objectives of the PRO-WATER program, is the greater involvement of young girls and women and ensuring that their voices are heard and that they can take part of the decision making, cooperation, design and implementation of water and sanitation projects.

“We learned lots, especially regarding how we can better utilize clean water. We also learned the importance of water in general”, said April Joy Betita, currently in Grade 10 of the Sawang secondary school.

The iWaSH community murals project counted on the aid and support of the Regional Water and Sanitation Centers, the department of the interior, the local and regional government and provincial offices, and the local governments of Aroroy, Masbate, Basud, Zamboanga Del Norte y Capalonga.

We learned lots, especially regarding how we can better utilize clean water. We also learned the importance of water in general

April Joy Betita
Student of Grade 10 of the Sawang secondary school


The joint programme PRO-WATER in the Philippines is promoted by the SDG Fund and implemented by several UN Agencies: UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with the support of the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) via its initial contribution towards the SDG Fund and in partnership with the different Departments of the Philippine Government, the National Water Resources Board and private sector organizations. Among the project’s objectives are the greater involvement of young girls and women in projects and programs involving sanitation and the reduction of water-borne diseases and the practice of public defecation in the open. The total budget of the PRO-WATER program is 3.6 million dollars, of which 42 percent is funded by the SDG Fund.

The creation of the iWaSH community murals contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goal 6 - "Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all." In particular, to the following targets:

  • 6.1 By 2030, achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all
  • 6.2 By 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations
  • 6.3 By 2030, improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally