Written by IAPMO 4:42 pm IWSH, IWSH Scholarship Essay Competition

Essay Contest: How Can IWSH Contribute Toward The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals And What Can The Foundation Do To Best Lead By Example? 


Meet Honorine: a round-faced restauranteur with a smile brighter than the Madagascan sun under which she works. Wearing a red tank top, she seasons and serves her signature doughnuts. It’s impossible to imagine that, not long ago, she walked six hours a day to retrieve filthy pond water. 

Honorine’s story, published in Euronews, shows how water can bring a community prosperity by advancing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. It all started when Charity Water, an organization similar to IWSH, built a groundwater tap beside her home. This obviously contributed to UN Sustainable Development Goal No. 6 (access to clean water and sanitation). But it doesn’t stop there. 

The water immediately improved health in Honorine’s community — UN SDG No. 3. Before, her water came from a cholera-ridden pond in which animals bathed and defecated. She isn’t alone: worldwide, 2 billion drink water contaminated with feces. No clean water also meant no hand washing, which increases the risk of diarrheal diseases by 42-45%. All in all, inadequate access to water and sanitation causes 30% of deaths in children under 5 in developing countries like Madagascar. But now, Honorine’s family had safe drinking water and a hand washing station just around the corner. “Since the installation of our clean water tap, we feel blessed. It seems like the disease has gone,” she told Euronews. 

Water also immediately improved gender equality — Sustainable Development Goal No. 5. Before, Honorine rose at 3 a.m. daily, making a six-hour round trip hauling a back-breaking water jug. In 80% of households fetching water, women and girls are primarily responsible, leaving no time for jobs or leisure. Additionally, lack of proper washrooms forces women to defecate in the open, which is humiliating, and increases the risk of extramarital sexual violence by 40%. When women don’t spend their lives hauling water, they are safer. They can find work, become more independent, and escape poverty. Honorine channeled her cooking passion and opened a restaurant serving everything from meats and noodles to her beloved doughnuts. It became a community social hub. “I love to welcome people,” she told Euronews. “It’s my passion for business.” 

When girls and the general population aren’t spending their days hauling water or in bed sick, they can get an education — Sustainable Development Goal No. 4. Every hour of reduction in water collection time causes a 30 percent increase in girls’ school attendance. In total, 443 million school days worldwide lost to illness would be regained if everyone had a tap like Honorine’s. 

With an education, people can start businesses, grow the economy and lift themselves out of poverty — SDG Nos. 1, 8 and 9. Every hundred dollars invested in communities by organizations like IWSH in sanitation provides $400 in economic returns. In total, universal clean water access would grow the world economy by $260 billion, owing to its effects on health and education, according to UNICEF. In Honorine’s community, many were inspired by her entrepreneurship and started their own businesses. Now, her village is a small but bustling economic hub. “The community is thankful because we no longer have to go far for water,” she told Euronews. “We are happy.” 

This case study beautifully illustrates Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: after the tap was built and Honorine’s survival needs (clean water) were met, she could care for her health and achieve greater independence through gender equality. Now, she and her community can chase their dreams through education and entrepreneurship, growing the economy. When economies grow, the Madagascan government has the resources to build more water taps in more communities. And the water cycle begins anew. 

The policymakers behind the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals never meant them to be separate — progress on one goal inevitably furthers another. In fact, access to clean water impacts many goals I haven’t mentioned for brevity’s sake — better sewage means less waste dumped into rivers, meaning more responsible industry (Goal No. 12), and preventing damage to ecosystems (Goals Nos. 13, 14 and 15). A country made economically prosperous through water access is more stable and can maintain peace and justice (Goal No. 16). 

Back to the original question: How can IWSH contribute to the SDGs? It is already setting the cycle in motion by providing water to underserved communities worldwide. All it needs to do is to reinforce and raise awareness about the cycle as a whole. 

First, IWSH should strengthen bonds between the water cycle stages. Take sanitation (Goal No. 4) and health (Goal No. 3). We’ve discussed how hand washing keeps communities healthy, but even with proper facilities many forgo it (observant public bathrooms users will notice this isn’t limited to developing countries). Additionally, many hand washers use incorrect washing techniques. When IWSH installs a new tap, it can work with local officials to spread awareness about how many lives hand-washing saves. 

Another link IWSH should look to strengthen is that between sanitation (Goal No. 4) and gender equality (Goal No. 6). Remember, women are usually the ones collecting water, and they have unique sanitation needs due to pregnancy and menstruation. Yet in many water projects, only men are consulted and placed in decision-making positions, while women are assigned physical labor and maintenance work. The result is that the group that needs water the most has the least say in how it will arrive. This has consequences: the International Water and Sanitation Centre found that water projects carried out without consulting women were less effective and more poorly maintained compared to projects where women were deeply involved. IWSH should ensure it engages with local women when planning future water initiatives. 

Finally, in its communications, IWSH should promote not just the impacts of its projects on water security, but also the effects of the whole water cycle it sets in motion. Demonstrating its impact on women’s rights, education, and alleviating poverty would drive more donations and attention to IWSH’s cause. As Honorine or the thousands of people IWSH has helped can attest, one tap can make all the difference. 


More than a decade ago, IAPMO’s Board of Directors recognized how important it is to encourage the next generation to become active in our industry. In this industry are engineers who design the system, those who install and maintain it, others who manufacture products within that system, and those who inspect it. Although there are tried and true ways of doing this, innovation plays an important part in making sure new technologies and ideas are considered. 

Introducing students to our important work is vital, and the essay competition is just one way IWSH is doing this. It’s been through the essay scholarship competition that students around the world have learned about IWSH and shared their innovative ideas with IAPMO and the foundation. 

The IWSH Essay Competition was administered for its 13th year in 2023 and continues to gain exposure globally. The number of entries once again eclipsed the previous record set the preceding year. Using a numerical scoring method, the essay committee members identified a first-place winner and three runners up. 

This year’s question asked students: “How can IWSH contribute toward the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and what can the foundation do to best lead by example?” 

We look forward to your being able to read the winners in this and upcoming issues of Official

The three writers selected — three $1,000 runners up and $2,000 first-place winner — are: 

First Place: Calvin Cao, Western University, London, Ontario, Canada 

Runners-Up: Marc-Anthony Dorestan, Millersville University of Pennsylvania; Aleksander Penkov, Hannibal-La Grange University, Bulgaria; Seanna Kryger, George Brown College, Toronto, Ontario, Canada 

Each of the winning essays will be published in Official magazine over several issues this year. Congratulations to all of our winners! 

IAPMO wishes to thank everybody who submitted an entry and raised the level of this competition to something truly exceptional.

Last modified: March 20, 2024