October 8, 2018

What have we learned from 10 years of Global Handwashing Day?

Written by Global Handwashing Partnership

Global Handwashing Day was inaugurated by the Global Handwashing Partnership in 2008, as part of the International Year of Sanitation. Since then, it has been celebrated every October 15th. With 2018 as the 10th year of Global Handwashing Day, the Global Handwashing Partnership carried out a review of the day to understand some of the areas of impact around Global Handwashing Day.

We carried out a survey, key informant interviews, and a review of previous Global Handwashing Day reports. This review helped the Global Handwashing Partnership learn more about what celebrants have achieved with their work on Global Handwashing Day, where the limitations are, and how planners can get the most out of their events and campaigns.

Global Handwashing Day has allowed celebrants to make strides in advocacy and awareness-raising. It’s also opened up opportunities for organizations to work together, learn from each other, and recognize progress. We also learned how the context around Global Handwashing Day has evolved, with social media as a powerful tool for advocacy, the Sustainable Development Goals calling us to work together to ensure everyone has access to a place to wash their hands. We heard that Global Handwashing Day has some limitations: just one day won’t be enough to change handwashing behavior, and it can be challenging to keep handwashing messages fresh and exciting each year.

Based on the outcomes of the review, we have five recommendations for Global Handwashing Day planners and celebrants to maximize the impact of Global Handwashing Day:

  • Leverage Global Handwashing Day for targeted advocacy: Celebrants have had advocacy successes around Global Handwashing Day, particularly when they engage policy makers and other decision makers in their celebrations. Read our advocacy toolkit and planner’s guide for guidance on hygiene advocacy. 
  • Integrate Global Handwashing Day into behavior change efforts: Global Handwashing Day is an opportunity to reinforce and raise awareness of the importance of handwashing, often through creative and engaging ways. Awareness alone does not change behavior, but it forms an important part of ongoing behavior change efforts. Read our behavior change tools to learn how to create lasting handwashing habits.
  • Work with media and influencers to spread the word: Social media is an increasingly important tool to share messages and engage in conversations. Traditional media, and locally important leaders, can also be influential in spreading hygiene messages to large audiences. Leverage organizational and individual resources and connections to expand your media reach.
  • Understand and focus on your audience: Events and campaigns are most successful when they are designed for a specific audience. When planning, take time to define and understand your audience, and design your celebrations accordingly. Read our advocacy toolkit and planner’s guide for more ideas on how to do this. 
  • Collaborate with others and take part in a global movement: While one campaign or event can’t reach everyone, join the global conversation to bring more focus to the importance of handwashing. Consider engaging new partners in your Global Handwashing Day celebrations. Reach out to people or organizations that haven’t celebrated before or may not focus on hygiene.

To learn more about what we found in the review, please read the summary of the report, available here. We will be sharing more of the results in this year’s Global Handwashing Day report, including the results of your campaigns and events in 2018. The Global Handwashing Partnership would also love to hear your feedback and case studies from Global Handwashing Day. Please contact us at contact@globalhandwashing.org.