Ten years ago, Lifebuoy co-founded Global Handwashing Day (GHD) to help raise awareness of the importance of handwashing with soap in preventing disease. GHD is now one of the largest brand activations in the world, impacting millions of people across all five continents.
On 15 October each year, over 200 million people take part in celebrating GHD in more than 100 countries. Since 2010 more than 15,000 employee volunteers have helped us share the difference that simply washing your hands with soap and water can make to reducing the spread of disease and infant mortality in children under five.
On this special anniversary we speak to five people around the world who all play a part in bringing Lifebuoy’s purpose to life – saving lives and helping parents to protect their families from illness.
1. The brand manager communicating the benefits of handwashing
Lifebuoy Brand Manager Tanzil Shahriar is responsible for shaping the strategy and delivering the ‘High 5 for Handwashing’ campaign throughout Bangladesh. In the past seven years he and the rest of the Lifebuoy team have taken the message that handwashing with soap can go a long way to reducing recurring childhood illnesses to 36 million people.
“We want to make sure that every little child in Bangladesh knows when to wash their hands and how to wash them,” says Tanzil. “Part of our outreach has seen us visit villages and communities impacted by flood waters. Disease often follows such disasters but the strength of delivering the High 5 message annually has seen good hygiene practices reduce the impact.”
Part of Tanzil’s work involves the brand’s partnership with the ‘Friendship’ hospital ship. The ship provides remote riverside communities with access to quality healthcare and hygiene messaging and has helped over 800,000 people in the past 16 years.
2. The marketer who mobilised communities and reinvented our packaging
“Indonesia has always been a strong supporter of Global Handwashing Day, running alongside our Lifebuoy school programmes which educate children on the health benefits of handwashing to reduce the spread of disease,” says Cynthia Bunjamin, Lifebuoy’s Assistant Brand Manager in Indonesia. “But this year we really wanted to scale our message and support. We knew that the best way to do this was to ask volunteers from every part of the country and community to join us in a movement to make handwashing with soap commonplace. We’ve offered people the chance to do this in two ways.
“The first is to sign up with our charity partner Indo Relawan to help deliver our handwashing education programme to schools on 15 October. The second way is to help us scale the programme by buying our special-edition Lifebuoy pack – where 3,000 rupiahs (€0.2) from each pack go towards delivering the programme to 9,000 schools across Indonesia. The packs have been on sale for just a few days now, and will be available until December. So far the public’s response has been very positive as they understand the difference the programme can make.”
3. The volunteer aid worker sharing the impact of handwashing
Bokayo Jattani Dabasso is a student volunteer educator with the Heroes for Change programme in Kenya. “I cover Marsabit town in the north-eastern part of Kenya which is known for water shortages and low hygiene levels,” Bokayo explains. “I teach the Super School of 5, a programme that Lifebuoy runs in partnership with Sightsavers, an NGO that aims to reduce preventable blindness. It teaches the importance of hand and face washing to reduce the prevalence of trachoma, one of the leading causes of preventable blindness.
“I first taught the programme in Marsabit primary school; the children there are aged between six and 14. Now that first class are teaching it to other classes at the school. I’m looking forward to seeing them in action this Global Handwashing Day. It shows the power a small effort can have in making a lasting impact.”
4. The pop star adding her voice to the campaign
Nigerian singing sensation Omawumi Megbele is Lifebuoy’s newest brand ambassador. She’s a mum of two young children. “My children are at the stage where they like to play and jump around,” she admits. “I simply cannot imagine losing them to preventable infections. But hundreds of thousands of Nigerian children die before their fifth birthday each year, so we have to take further steps to address this issue.”
Not only is Omawumi lending her voice to the campaign, she is also making sure handwashing with soap is part of her household’s routine. “We wash hands before breakfast, lunch and dinner and every time we use the bathroom,” she says. Her message to other parents is clear: “It is better for you to teach your children how to wash their hands with Lifebuoy than trekking to the hospital every day.” Watch Omawumi’s High 5 film here:
5. The innovator delivering a sustainable action plan for emergencies
Humanitarian disasters such as the 2015 earthquake in Nepal are devastating in their aftermath, with diseases such as diarrhoea adding to the loss of life and accounting for nearly 30% of deaths in children.
Aarti Daryanani, Assistant Brand Manager for Global Lifebuoy Social Mission, is responsible for leading Lifebuoy’s response in emergencies. In partnership with Oxfam, she has developed one of the world’s first successful handwashing behaviour change programmes customised for emergencies, increasing handwashing behaviours before eating by 18%, before cooking by 17% and after toilet use by 45%.
Over the course of a year, this programme, which was piloted in Nepal following the 2015 earthquake, has been deployed in more than eight emergencies. Watch the film here.
“Our partners are a strong force," says Aarti. "They work with us to go the extra mile, reaching the most vulnerable of populations. This year, our partnership with Oxfam further strengthens with plans to reach +15% of the population affected by the recent floods in Kerala (India).
It’s a challenging yet exciting time on Lifebuoy – it fills me with pride to be working on such a powerful brand, where we go much beyond teaching hygiene to helping people live better lives. #high5forhandwashing for that!”