‘The power is in your hands’ – Global Handwashing Day and Community-Led Total Sanitation

Susanne SchirmerSue_Schirmer200

Together with improved sanitation handwashing with soap is one of the most effective and inexpensive ways for preventing diarrhoeal, acute respiratory and other infections, which take the lives of millions of children in developing countries each year. The 15th October is Global Handwashing Day and each year about 200 million people are involved in celebrations in over 100 countries around the world. My colleagues from the Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) Knowledge Hub at IDS are marking the occasion by promoting handwashing-related publications and resources on the CLTS website.

CLTS is an innovative methodology for mobilising communities to completely eliminate open defecation (OD). Communities are facilitated to conduct their own appraisal and analysis of open defecation (OD) and take their own action to become ODF (open defecation free). Handwashing is very much part and parcel of the CLTS approach, as Robert Chambers explains in this online discussion: ‘Handwashing is widely included in triggering or comes soon after. There are ways in which this is facilitated which are not didactic … The main one is likely to be – (if you don’t wash) – the realisation that they are eating their own shit.’

girl washing her hands

‘The Power is in your hands’ photo by Petra Bongartz

There are some innovative ways of triggering handwashing behaviour which UNICEF Malawi researched and collated in this ‘How to Trigger Handwashing with Soap’ Guide – some, for example the ‘scratch and smell method’, are not for the faint-hearted: The facilitator puts his hand inside his trousers and (pretends or actually) scratches his bottom. He then offers his hand to community members to shake. If, as is likely, they recoil and refuse, a discussion on why ensues and leads into conversations about the importance of handwashing.

Visit the CLTS website to find out more and access a number of resources relating to CLTS and handwashing or visit the Global Handwashing Day website to find out about the celebrations around the world.

Sue Schirmer works as Communications Coordinator for the  Participation, Power and Social Change (PPSC) team at IDS. The Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) Knowledge Hub is hosted at the PPSC team at IDS. Visit the CLTS website to find out more or follow their blog posts

Read other blogs relating to CLTS

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One Response to ‘The power is in your hands’ – Global Handwashing Day and Community-Led Total Sanitation

  1. […] ‘The power is in your hands’ – Global Handwashing Day and Community-Led Total Sanitation […]

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