JAIPUR, Rajasthan, India, 2 November 2009 – As the school was getting ready to celebrate observe the Annual Hand Washing Day, eight-year old Umesh was playing with his classmates in the tranquil environment of Senior Secondary Government School, Shivdaspura in Rajasthan. When asked about the importance of hand washing, he expressed his ignorance about its importance and also the significance of the Global Hand Washing Day.
“I have never seen my parents wash their hands regularly with soap before eating and after defecation. At times, they do but either with sand or with simple water,” says Umesh.
This is the story of most of the families living in the rural areas in Rajasthan. Due to lack of awareness and unavailability of the enabled environment for hand washing, many children like Umesh living in poor hygiene conditions are often prone to diarrhoeal deaths and respiratory infections.
Rajasthan marked the celebration of the second Global Hand Washing Day on 27 October 2009 with a state-level launch at a secondary school, in Shivdaspura village, 20 km from the capital city of Jaipur. Hundreds of young boys and girls gave a clear message call for adopting the safe and healthy habit of washing hands with soap. The function was attended by a large number of activists, community leaders and government functionaries.
The campaign covered all schools, Aganwadis and Medical Centres across the desert state through an inter-departmental task force under the aegis of Additional Chief Secretary (Development).
The Education, the Women and Child and Public Health Engineering Departments, the Communication and Capacity Development Unit of State Water and Sanitation Departments, MLAs and Panchayati Raj institution members worked together to make the campaign a success.
Giving instance of the handwashing day campaign for 2008, Head of Communication Capacity Development unit, Hemant Joshi informed that the campaign had covered ninety percent of schools reaching out over 9.3 million children on a single day.
For this year, the state government and UNICEF have pooled in resources to turn hand washing into a people’s campaign to enhance awareness, appreciation and shift in attitudinal behaviour change as a sustainable practice rather than being a one-off event.
The members of the school cabinet present demonstrated “Saf Hathon Ka Jadoo” i.e. magic of clean hands by explaining that clean hands meant washing hands by soap and not only by water or sand.
The children appealed to the Education Minister Master Bhanwarlal Meghwal to make a regular provision of soap in the school
Speaking on the occasion, the Education Minister warmly responded to the children’s requests and announced steps to improve the condition of sanitation in the schools.
“I will ensure that every school has at least one toilet by next year in the state. I have also requested the people to bring it to his notice if any school does not having a functional toilet by next year,” the Minister said.
Recognizing the importance of the toilet especially for the girls, the minister promised to build toilets in all the schools which have the enrollment of girls.
On provision of soap to every school, he reminded the officials present to streamline the process of procuring funds for the School development and management committee for the purpose. He requested the sarpanch ( village headman) and the community to ensure availability of soaps in every school.
The minister was appreciative of the innovative low cost toilets which were on display at the exhibition and low water use age method of hand washing called the “Tippy tap” method.
A large section of media responded positively to the call of partnership by the government. All FM channels like Radio MIrchi, Meow, Tadka, Red and MY FM did live link ups, interviews, talks shows on the primetime to focus on the issue.
ETV Rajasthan which has the largest coverage in the state did a special half an hour capsule on the event and relayed a ticker on the tag line “ Saaf Haath mein dum hai” through out the day.