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Leaving no one behind: Beyond World Water Day

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Water is an essential element for life; the average adult human body is 50 – 65% water. However, access to potable water is particularly limited in developing countries.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has some alarming statistics on water access; such as in 2017, 2.1 billion people were deprived of safe water globally.

Lack of access to safe, sufficient and affordable water, sanitation and hygiene facilities has a devastating effect on the health, dignity and prosperity of billions of people, therefore, having significant consequences for the realisation of other human rights.

Goal six of the United Nations (UN) 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) is “Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all” by 2030. World Water Day – a yearly UN observance for advocacy around sustainable management of freshwater resources – has been celebrated every March 22, since it was establish in 1993.

It aims to bring people together and encourage them to think about water-related issues including the development of solutions for those who do not have easy access to water or encounter significant challenges regarding water due to climactic conditions, sanitation, availability and geo-politics.

This year, the theme is Leaving no one behind. This mission has motivated several governments, organisations and non-profits to come together and work towards raising awareness around water sanitation

. Some examples are UN Water and Water.org which operate across the world, working with local partners to provide solutions and infrastructure.

In Nigeria, The Five Cowries Initiative, a creative arts education programme has partnered with key stakeholders – in Lagos State government, the private sector, education, arts and civil society – with the aim to offer an inclusive route to education that makes learning fun and enhances the quality and capacity of arts education and teaching skills in Lagos.

To deliver this, the Initiative is working closely with Teach for Nigeria. As the first and only organisation to partner young leaders from diverse academic backgrounds in an extended service initiative, Teach For Nigeria recruits, trains and supports outstanding young leaders to teach in underserved schools, in low-income communities.

Arts literacy is proven to help children to develop design thinking, enhance creativity, improve collaboration and develop critical thinking. It also acts as a strong mechanism for improving attendance rates, as interactive and visual teaching methods increase children’s engagement levels and so, desire to participate.

The Five Cowries Initiative will help build the capacity of Teach For Nigeria Fellows to enhance the creative skills of their students.

In addition to building teacher capacity, the Initiative has also established a range of opportunities for the work that the students produce, to be showcased both in Lagos and internationally. Its 2019 theme ‘My Story of Water’, will encourage students to tell visual stories about water and sustainability in their environment.

The Initiative will select 30 classes of students to produce artwork that gives the 1,800 participating pupils perspective on the importance of water in their daily lives.

The theme follows from its pilot project in 2017, ‘Flying Flotilla’, in which students produced artwork on canoes; the installation was seen by 1.5 million visitors during its month-long display on the South Bank (London, UK).

This was followed by an installation of painted umbrellas telling stories that addressed various issues around rivers and our waterways, in 2018.
 
Creativity is the currency of our future and the hope is that it continues to encourage collaboration for greater impact; ensuring no one is left behind, especially beyond World Water Day.

Alakija is a muralist, artist, educator and children’s book author. She is the Founder of the Five Cowries Initiative and Chairperson of the Lagos State Council for Arts and Culture.


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