Kolkata: Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL’s) health soap brand Lifebuoy has announced a new initiative to empower young girls to make a difference in their own communities through a partnership with the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS). Kajol, Lifebuoy’s Help A Child Reach 5 ambassador, introduced the young girl guides who will be handwashing heroes and spread the message of handwashing to over 4 million people, helping prevent illness.
The partnership aims to encourage girl guides and scouts to take a lead within their communities and make an impact through teaching the lifesaving habit of handwashing with soap. Each handwashing hero is trained on the importance of using soap while washing hands before eating and after using the toilet. They are also equipped with the necessary skills to share these learnings with other people they know. In this way, the practice of using soap at critical occasions is encouraged to spread across communities protecting people from illnesses and infections. Over 1,200 girl guides and scouts have been trained so far under this partnership.
During the event, Sanjiv Mehta, CEO and Managing Director, HUL along with Samir Singh, Executive Vice President, Global Skin Cleansing, Unilever and Lifebuoy’s Help A Child Reach 5 handwashing ambassador, Kajol Devgn came together to award these heroes for being the real agents of change for handwashing.
In India alone, diarrhoea and pneumonia killed more than 296,000 under-five children in 2015[i] . The simple act of handwashing with soap can prevent many of these deaths. Handwashing with soap is one of the most cost-effective ways to save a child’s life.
Sanjiv Mehta, Managing Director and CEO, HUL, said: “We believe that companies like HUL have a key role in helping the country achieve ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’. More than 90% of households in India use HUL products. This gives us an opportunity and a responsibility to make a meaningful difference. We are convinced that we can achieve this, leveraging our expertise in behaviour change programmes in the areas of handwashing and sanitation and our experience in developing and delivering innovative partnership models.”
Samir Singh, Executive Vice President, Global Skin Cleansing, Unilever, said “I feel proud to see Lifebuoy’s handwashing movement Help A Child Reach 5 go to the next level through this partnership with WAGGGS. One of our biggest learnings has been that children have in them the abilities to drive behaviour change. Through this partnership, Lifebuoy is unleashing the potential of young girls, who shall be empowered to transform the health of entire communities. We started in a small village called Thesgora in Madhya Pradesh in 2013 with the highest rates of diarrhoea and were able to showcase remarkable results owing to a focussed handwashing intervention. We hope that this partnership with WAGGGS will help us push the envelope further with communities and families adapting healthy handwashing habits through these incredible handwashing heroes.”
Ana Maria Mideros, WAGGGS’ World Board Chair, said “At the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, we know that every girl has the power and potential to learn, lead and make positive change in her community and the wider world. We are hugely proud that our partnership with Lifebuoy is helping young people in India to take action and promote hand washing with soap – both at home and in their wider communities. Working with Lifebuoy, Girl Guides and Scouts are driving change, improving hygiene and changing lives.”
Lifebuoy’s Help A Child Reach 5 Handwashing Ambassador Kajol Devgn said, “As a mother and a woman I am really excited about this partnership with WAGGGS. What inspired me the most was how these girl heroes are determined and passionate about making a difference in the lives of others by educating people on basic hygiene practices such as handwashing. We need many more such young heroes to help address some easily preventable health and hygiene issues.”
A clinical trial led by Lifebuoy, involving 2,000 families in Mumbai, demonstrated a 25% reduction in the number of incidences of diarrhoea among children aged five and a 15% reduction in acute respiratory infection.[ii]