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Handwashing groupies

Published on: 15/10/2015

How can you get 110 million children to wash their hands before meals? India has the answer.

Group handwashing in Assam, India. Photo: UNICEF

Every morning at the Baruajani Bapuji Lower Primary School in Assam, India, children and a group of mothers take the handwashing pledge. The ‘Matri Goat’ or mothers group consists of 10 mothers who help the school staff maintain and monitor water, sanitation and hygiene standards for the children.

The mothers group became involved after the start of a UNICEF-supported group handwashing pilot project in April 2014. Before enjoying their free lunch, courtesy of the government’s flagship Mid-Day Meal (MDM) programme, the ‘Matri Goat’, teachers and the School Management Committee supervise groups of children who have great fun washing their hands.

Before eating is one of the critical times when you need to wash your hands with soap.Teaching this to school children is a good way to stimulate hygienic practices that last.

Children are also great change agents. The group handwashing initiative has turned six-year-old Disha into a cleanliness advocate. She first taught her mother, father and younger sister, and has now even taught her grandmother, uncle and aunt. “My grandmother is just like me. She too enjoys playing with the soap lather and water,” Disha giggles.

Group Handwashing Poster. UNICEF

The Indian government has declared that every school in the country must have handwashing stations as part of its Swachh Bharat Swachh Vidyalaya – ‘Clean India: Clean Schools’ campaign. Institutionalising group handwashing before meals will help ensure that these facilities keep functioning and are used effectively to improve hygiene. Linking handwashing to the MDM programme means that 110 million children can be reached.

The group handwashing concept was first piloted by German development agency GIZ in their Fit for School programme in The Philippines. Now GIZ and UNICEF are introducing group handwashing in Tanzania.

Watch the UNICEF animation video on Daily Group Handwashing below.




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