November 13, 2017
Global Handwashing Day is dedicated to increasing awareness about the importance of handwashing with soap as an easy, effective, and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives. The day is an opportunity to design, test, and replicate creative ways to encourage people to wash their hands with soap at critical times. The Global Handwashing Partnership (GHP) founded Global Handwashing Day, and coordinates the Day each year. The GHP aims to promote the practice of handwashing with soap, shine a spotlight on the state of hygiene around the world, and raise awareness about the benefits of handwashing with soap.
The effort that goes into planning, coordinating, and measuring a successful Global Handwashing Day goes far beyond October 15th. To understand the impact of Global Handwashing Day, the GHP’s Program Officer, Bijan Manavizadeh, and Secretariat Director, Carolyn Moore, share their experiences with the Day.
What is your favorite aspect of Global Handwashing Day?
Carolyn: Global Handwashing Day is supported by a large global movement around handwashing. At the GHP, we know that handwashing is critical for success in many sectors—health, sanitation, education, and more. Global Handwashing Day brings together actors from many sectors together around a cause that matters to us all.
Bijan: I love the degree to which creativity is embraced by organizers to encourage handwashing with soap. While promotion often attempts to stimulate action by evoking negative reactions, so many Global Handwashing Day celebrations do just the opposite. When presented in creative ways that are fun and positive, handwashing increases the likelihood that celebrants will continue to perform handwashing and form good handwashing habits.
What do you find most valuable about your role in leading Global Handwashing Day?
Bijan: Global Handwashing Day is one of my favorite times to see the impact of the work I do for the GHP and to engage with the people we strive to help. Coordinating Global Handwashing Day allows me to connect with planners around the world to explore ways to improve campaign design and increase reach to those who can be helped most through handwashing programming. By assessing the impact of Global Handwashing Day each year, I am able to observe the impact of the GHP’s work.
Carolyn: I agree with Bijan—Global Handwashing Day is a rewarding way for us to connect with handwashing champions from around the world. When celebrants contact us about their plans, this often starts a discussion on how the GHP can be more supportive of organizations in our network. It’s also an important way for us to learn what’s working in handwashing promotion around the world.
Bijan, what important lessons have you learned over the past three Global Handwashing Days?
Bijan: I’ve learned a lot about how to create resources that are useful and relevant for a range of settings. Cultural differences, language barriers, and varying perceptions of hygiene mean that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to creating the perfect planners’ tool. Yet, by continually assessing our role and exploring ideas, we can accomplish greater results. For instance, this year we translated the Planner’s Guide into Spanish and expanded the contents of the Social Media Toolkit. This allowed us to help organizers improve their celebration outcomes and rally more people in support of the Day.
Carolyn, based on your first experience coordinating Global Handwashing Day efforts, what do you hope to build on for the next October 15?
Carolyn: At its core, Global Handwashing Day is an advocacy day. The online buzz around handwashing, thousands of events, and increased attention to the importance of handwashing all provide an opening for action. Our team is interested in seeing how we can help celebrants leverage the energy around the day into long-term commitments and action. If you have an example or suggestion, please contact us!
How can celebrants continue promoting handwashing habits beyond Global Handwashing Day?
Bijan: If everyone advocated for handwashing with soap every day, not just on October 15, there would be significant progress to increase hygiene programs, investment, and behavior. Now that October 15 has come and gone, I encourage event organizers to continue the momentum by assessing what did or didn’t work to inform additional hygiene programming. For example, you could connect with event participants to determine which aspects or activities they found most helpful.
Visit the Beyond Global Handwashing Day and Project Implementation pages on the GHP website to learn more about achieving greater impact beyond October 15. The GHP will continue communicating the importance of hygiene integration to celebrate World Pneumonia Day (November 12) and World Toilet Day (November 19) for our audiences to keep learning about handwashing with soap related to pneumonia prevention and sanitation promotion. We will be tweeting, blogging, and highlighting success stories. Follow us on social media and sign up for our newsletter to get the latest updates.
What can planners do to have a more active role before Global Handwashing Day in 2018?
Carolyn: Please share your event results with us! We’d love to hear how your celebrations went. After that, take action to promote handwashing with soap. There are so many ways you can engage—write to policymakers, host an event to update handwashing facilities at a local school or health facility, create a policy supporting handwashing in your workplace, and much more. Everyone has a role to play in promoting the benefits of handwashing with soap. If you’re looking for ideas and resources, don’t hesitate to contact our team for tools and ideas.
Anything else you’d like to mention?
Bijan: I want to say thank you to our partners in helping us coordinate our GHD preparations and to everyone who supported our Global Handwashing Day work, used and promoted our resources, organized events and virtual campaigns, and celebrated this year by rallying around handwashing with soap. You are the true handwashing heroes, and we couldn’t have made as big of a splash without you!
Carolyn: I agree! Thank you to all who celebrated Global Handwashing Day—both for your partnership on the Day and for your ongoing efforts. Please stay tuned for a report and other follow-up from the GHP, and we look forward to celebrating with you again next year.
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© 2017 The Global Handwashing Partnership (GHP).