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Plan an Event

Planning a Global Handwashing Day event can be a big job, but it doesn’t have to be! The Global Handwashing Partnership (GHP) put together this step-by-step guide to help make planning successful Global Handwashing Day activities as easy as possible. This step-by-step guide can be found in the Global Handwashing Day Planner’s Guide along with an event planning checklist, celebration ideas, case studies, and much more.

If you are looking to plan a handwashing behavior change program, see the GHP resources and education modules.


Establish objectives and identify audience

Global Handwashing Day is designed to:

  • Foster and support a global and local culture of handwashing with soap
  • Shine a spotlight on the state of handwashing in each country
  • Raise awareness about the benefits of handwashing with soap

You should consider what you want to achieve with your event. For example, you might want your audience to:

  • Take action, such as build a handwashing station
  • Change their behavior, such as use soap when handwashing
  • Become hygiene champions and educate others about handwashing

Establishing an objective for a defined audience group will help you to plan a targeted, successful event and help as you assess the impact of your celebration. The objective of your activity may coincide with a larger project objective or it may be independent.

Some objectives may be:

  • Educate teachers and students on proper handwashing behavior so they make handwashing at school a habit
  • Government officials prioritize hygiene policies
  • All households in a community have access to a handwashing station near their toilet and food preparation areas

Collect information and document the current situation

The first step of planning a Global Handwashing Day event is to get background on the current hygiene situation in the region or country where you plan to host your event. This will help you to better target your messaging so that the event can have as big an impact as possible.

People in different places wash their hands—or don’t wash their hands —for all sorts of different reasons. If you understand these reasons, you can use them to design an effective handwashing promotion campaign. Do some local research to find out what people do now and why, and what benefits of handwashing with soap particularly appeal to them. Often people are driven by things like disgust or the desire to nurture their children, rather than concern about their health. The SuperAmma campaign , for example, found that these emotional drivers were very effective in promoting handwashing behaviors. Social norms can also play a role in triggering handwashing behavior. You can read more about social norms here.

Seek information about what proportion of people in your target area wash their hands with soap, without soap, or not at all. Find out what proportion of children under the age of five get diarrhea and pneumonia. Check whether schoolchildren have access to handwashing stations (soap and clean running water) at school or at home. If the information you need isn’t available, do a survey. This will provide evidence that will make the case for the need to promote handwashing.

As a reminder, it is important to draw a distinction between handwashing with water alone—which is commonly practiced—and handwashing with soap, which is comparatively infrequent despite being more effective.


Develop tailored messages

From the data collection will emerge your key messages. For instance, you may find that 60 percent of people wash their hands with water—and think that doing so is sufficient—but only 10 percent wash their hands with soap. Thus, your key message may center around the idea that water alone is not enough—you need to wash with soap for truly clean hands—possibly evoking disgust at all the germs that are found on the hands.

You may find that in a specific school, parents built handwashing stations and created a soap fund; one of your messages might be that parents, working together, can keep their children healthy. Positive “we can do it” sorts of messages can be more motivating than a recap of the death-and-disease statistics (though these are important to provide context, background and support for your messages).


Mobilize stakeholders (including public and private partners)

As a Global Handwashing Day planner, you can partner with government, private companies, and community organizations to spread the word about handwashing. While collaboration with other stakeholders is not a requirement of a successful Global Handwashing Day event, when multiple organizations work together they are each able to contribute their strengths and expertise toward a common goal. For example, partnerships among national and local governments, international organizations, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and soap manufacturers can be extremely effective in promoting handwashing with soap. They combine the health objectives of the public sector, the marketing expertise of the private sector and often the community knowledge of NGOs to create a more far-reaching and beneficial impact than any of the three could achieve on its own.
Organizations that wish to partner with others may also wish to register their upcoming event with the GHP. All registered events will be added to a catalog of Global Handwashing Day events from which the GHP will make introductions with other local organizations, if appropriate.


Plan events and activities

Your Global Handwashing Day celebration will likely include:

  • Messages about handwashing, such as speeches, posters, or core take-aways
  • Activities to engage the audience in promoting handwashing and reinforce the messages

Here are examples of different event objectives and corresponding activities. Your own event may have one or more of these objectives, or an entirely different objective!

  • If your event objective is to get school children to wash their hands before they eat meals, you will need to make sure they know why handwashing is important, but frequently handwashing behavior is more strongly influenced by emotional drivers. With children, for example, using the emotional driver of disgust may help them make handwashing a habit. Activities should emphasize that handwashing is fun.
  • If your objective is to make your audience into handwashing champions, you will need to both educate them about handwashing and provide motivation for them to in turn educate others about handwashing. The first step would be to conduct educational activities that focus on increasing knowledge of why handwashing with soap is important and on laying the foundations for healthy lifelong habits. You will need to convince the audience that handwashing is important enough for them to take action and that they have the resources or knowledge necessary to take the first step.
  • If you hope to encourage the government to take action on handwashing policy, you may want to conduct hygiene advocacy as part of your celebration. Advocacy focuses on spreading a message as widely as possible and on making that message appealing and memorable with a specific “ask” or desired outcome. It includes activities geared to influencing public policy and resource allocation for handwashing with soap in schools, in public institutions and in the public health system in general. Advocacy includes a range of tactics such as influencing and lobbying key decision-makers and organizing demonstrations, media campaigns, and celebrity events.

Further information on advocacy may be found on the “Promote” portion of the GHP’s website.

The activities that you include in your event should reinforce the communications messages, and both should work toward achieving your event objective.

It is likely that no matter your audience or objective, your event will include aspects of social and behavior change communication. Behavior change is generally thought of as a longer-term objective that builds on advocacy and education efforts. Behavior change initiatives are based on research into the drivers of certain behaviors.


Spread the word

Successfully spreading the word about your Global Handwashing Day event will help raise the profile of handwashing and help to highlight your organization’s work to improve hygiene.

There are many channels that can be used to share information about your event and the state of hygiene in your region. You may want to consider engaging journalists, opinion leaders, and social media audiences. With each of these channels consider what your “ask” is: Do you want them to write about your event? To encourage participation? Community opinion leaders can help to publicize your event and use their position of influence to encourage participation. Engaging with people on social media or blogs can emphasize the larger issue of poor hygiene. For ideas on sample social media messages, see the Global Handwashing Day Social Media Toolkit.


Monitor progress and assess impact

Global Handwashing Day is an opportunity to design, test, and replicate creative ways to encourage people to wash their hands with soap at critical times. We can all be more successful if we assess the success of activities through monitoring and evaluation and share what we learned with others.

Monitoring and evaluation will help you understand the impact of your activities and know what is successful and what can be adjusted for future campaigns.

For more details on how to monitor and assess the impact of your activities, see the booklet “More Than a Day: Assessing the impact of Global Handwashing Day activities”  available here. It will help you set realistic goals in your country and to devise appropriate indicators and methods for monitoring and evaluating these activities.

  • For each activity, review the indicators to assess their impact and the methods to be used. Group similar monitoring and evaluation (M&E) processes together.
  • Identify the M&E researchers and plan for training and supervising.
  • Plan M&E steps and processes.
  • Prepare a detailed budget for M&E.
  • Develop a specific plan and facilities for child-led M&E
  • Prepare for an analysis of the M&E data
  • Decide on how you want to present the M&E data results.

Other monitoring and evaluation tools can be found in the resources section of the GHP website.



Share your M&E results with partner organizations. You can use the data gathered to plan for the next year’s celebration and take note of follow on activities.

After you have concluded evaluating your event tell the world about how you celebrated! One of the best ways to do so is to post your event on the Global Handwashing Day map. You can do this by completing a brief form here.

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