Illustrations and representation - are some posters and schematics infantilizing and patronizing?


  • jasminalley
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Illustrations and representation - are some posters and schematics infantilizing and patronizing?

Dear SuSanA Community,

We would like to share a Wikipedia entry with you about “hand washing”( ).

While researching topics related to the WASH sector, we came upon the article and stumbled over the choice of images. The instructional drawing shows an illustration of a woman of color. In comparison to the abstract graphic hand washing instruction further down, the drawing is rather infantilizing and patronizing, especially if we assume that these type of posters do not exist with (and for) white people. (This may have changed due to Covid, but have never encountered similar images in pre-Covid times.)

What do you think? Do you think we are “too” sensitive here? We’d love to hear your perspective on this!


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  • Elisabeth
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Re: Illustrations and representation - are some posters and schematics infantilizing and patronizing?

Hi Jasmin,

This is an interesting question. I am the one who added this poster image to the Wikipedia article. The schematics and posters were created by CAWST as awareness raising tools. I don't know in which context they were used but it's quite possible that they were used in primary schools in which case I would find the depiction of the people quite fine. You call it infantilizing and patronizing. I am not sure if this is entirely fair but it's certainly worth discussing. Some of these awareness raising posters indeed don't really exist in the context of high income countries because pit latrines or other forms of household based on-site sanitation are so much rarer there.

I will check with CAWST ( ) what their thoughts are on the matter. As a small step to improve the situation I have now added a caption to the image to say "Poster about when to wash hands to raise awareness about hygiene. This poster can be used to raise awareness on that topic amongst school children.". See here:

There are actually many flaws in many Wikipedia articles, especially to do with imagery. I wish more people from the WASH sector would step up and help improve Wikipedia articles! (I can't do it all by myself...) So thanks for raising this concern.

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