Since the dawn of history, faith has provided a foundation from which social norms develop. It is to faith leaders that billions are drawn in times of joy and sorrow, as well as in the search for inner meaning. As teachers to the masses, the words of faith leaders motivate, persuade and enable. Through their speech and actions, they can bring about change in a way unparalleled by others. An estimated 5 billion people around the world are members of religious communities, underscoring the critical role religious leaders can play in addressing seemingly intractable problems – such as access to safe water and sanitation.
The Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA), of which Pujya Swamiji is Co-Founder, is the world’s first initiative that is engaging the planet’s many faiths as allies in efforts to create a world where every human being has access to safe drinking water, improved sanitation and proper hygiene. GIWA was launched by UNICEF at UNICEF Headquarters during the United Nations General Assembly Meetings in New York at an event sponsored by USAID and the Government of the Netherlands.
GIWA feels that nothing short of a behaviour change revolution is required in order to ensure healthy, sustainable WASH for nearly half of India’s population. Our compelling faith-based Swachhta Kranti (Clean Revolution) campaign has been designed to do just that. Through the inspirational words of beloved faith leaders, populations that had never dreamed of building and using toilets are being motivated to embrace improved sanitation and more. As they do so, they join GIWA in expanding the Swachhta Kranti campaign amongst their friends, neighbours and others through their own endeavours and by participating in GIWA’s grand processions, mass pledges, Sanitation & Hygiene Rallies and more.
GIWA’s World Toilet College offers classroom and outreach trainings that cover the entire range of sanitation topics. So far, our World Toilet College provided more than 3000 people with knowledge and skills to directly address India’s most pressing sanitation needs. Courses offered included Toilet Building, Sanitation Ambassador Training Programme, Hygiene in Schools, Student Led Total Sanitation, Healthy Homes and Families, Professional Toilet Cleaning, and various capacity building programmes on WASH for key stakeholders such as SHG members, grassroots-level volunteers and natural leaders of communities.
Dedicated social workers, volunteers and performers are providing outreach in festivals, events, streets, slums and villages through GIWA’s unique WASH on Wheels programme and Swachh Bharat Yatras. WASH on Wheels is an inspired mobile educational platform which features videos of foremost faith leaders promoting the use of toilets, as well as street theatre, puppet shows, sanitation walks and more. With two trucks in constant use, a full-fledged outreach team motivates people of all ages through interactive activities geared towards promoting lasting change.
Providing classes within two schools a day, 6 days a week, GIWA’s WaterSchool programme trains and motivates teachers and students to learn the principles of sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene for becoming social change agents. WaterSchool also offers teacher’s workshops, large-scale student programmes, and the provision of WASH needs including toilets, hand-washing stations, clean water and more. So far, thousands of teachers and students have been sensitized through our classroom programmes, workshops and practical demonstrations.
GIWA’s Women for WASH Initiative is enabling women from villages and slums to become WASH entrepreneurs. Together, they are assembling to wage their own local Revolution against pollution, hardship and disease by helping to ensure their neighbours embrace, and have access to toilets, clean water, and more. To enable disadvantaged women to become WASH entrepreneurs, GIWA officially launched special toilet building classes under its Women for WASH Initiative. This was accompanied by other capacity building trainings to enable these women to become more involved in making their communities Open Defecation Free.