Advocacy includes a range of tactics such as influencing and lobbying key decision-makers, organizing demonstrations, and launching media campaigns to persuade decision-makers to take action to promote handwashing.

Handwashing advocacy usually aims to influence public policy, public opinion, and resource-allocation decisions. For example, advocates can draw attention to the importance of handwashing, call for handwashing to be included in specific nutrition, education, or child health policies, goals, and targets; demand that local schools deliver hygiene promotion activities; that authorities take responsibility for measuring people’s access to handwashing facilities; improving equity of access, and so on.

The strength of advocacy lies in its capacity to draw substantial numbers of people around a particular issue. A major opportunity for handwashing advocacy is around Global Handwashing Day, held annually on October 15. Something as simple as handwashing with soap, which can have far-reaching consequences for children’s health, is an easy concept around which to mobilize.

If an advocacy event is well orchestrated, it can be an incredibly powerful tool for putting the issue on the map both politically and socially. If your school, hospital, region or country should do more to promote handwashing, you can draw attention to that and harness voices to call for change. If your country is already implementing programs for handwashing with soap, then advocacy events are a good way to provide added impetus to existing activities and to showcase achievements. In this way, you can gain wider recognition, secure further commitments, continue to motivate people already involved, and gain new converts.

Key advocacy tools developed by the Global Handwashing Partnership include a Post-2015 Hygiene Advocacy Toolkit and the Global Handwashing Day Planner’s Guide

Local Advocacy

Leaders, including those in government, businesses, and the community, have the power to make decisions that can impact handwashing. Advocacy at the local level may consist of asking local leaders, school board officials, or public works departments to ensure that access to handwashing stations with soap and water are available at key public locations, such as in schools.

National Advocacy

Country-level decisions can have a very important impact on handwashing. For example, Ministers of Water, Education, Health, and others are often responsible for determining what public services are prioritized and funded. Advocacy at this level can consist of asking these key decision makers to fund and drive hygiene projects, or make sure handwashing with soap is included in their health, water, education, nutrition, and related policies, or increase accountability and reporting on successes.

The Global Handwashing Day Planner’s Guide includes many ideas and tips for local and national advocacy that can be used both on October 15 and around the year.

Global Advocacy

Many important decisions made at the global level can have effects on handwashing.

In 2015, a new set of global development goals, targets, and indicators were adopted by the United Nations. These goals, targets, and indicators, often referred to as the post-2015 agenda or the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), replaced the Millennium Development Goals and function as a “report card” against which governments’ progress can be tracked.

These SDGs will be a key driver behind the work of governments, donors, and non-governmental organizations over the next 15 years. The UN states: “Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the single most important element of the post-2015 development agenda.” Given the importance of the SDGs in global development, and the role that handwashing with soap plays in promoting public health, we believe that hygiene must be incorporated in the targets and indicators supporting the SDGs.

The Global Handwashing Partnership is undertaking extensive advocacy at the global level around this objective, and we hope you will join us. For more information on the SDGs and ideas on how you can be involved in advocacy, please download our hygiene advocacy toolkit here.