GIWA’s Historic Women’s Summit Breaks Barriers on MHM and Child Marriage

On 27-29 January, renowned women leaders from different religions, countries, organizations, and fields came together on the banks of the Prayagraj Sangam to discuss and then commit themselves towards playing active and collaborative roles in saving the children and communities of India from death, disease and stunting through improved Menstrual Hygiene Management and WASH through GIWA’s historic Summit of Grace. The historic Summit also placed a special focus on ending child marriage and ensuring all girls stay in school.

Why The Summit of Grace?

Countless women and girls in India are deeply affected by a lack of access to proper Menstrual Hygiene Management, as well as by the stigmas associated with their periods. In addition, issues surrounding access to sanitation continue to prove worrisome, with many people left behind and ODF statuses at risk in many areas. Moreover, the health, well-being and future prospects for millions of women and girls are also placed at risk by the lack of proper school education compounded by the threat of child marriage.

There are numerous adverse health effects associated with a lack of adequate MHM and sanitation in particular. Out of fear, for example, women and girls may choose to ignore their needs, which may increase the likelihood of painful infections, school dropout rates, chronic constipation and mental stress.

In addition, a lack of single-gender sanitation facilities in schools’ results in low levels of attendance among girls, perpetuating cycles of gender inequality and poverty.  Girls who have reached puberty and female school staff who are menstruating need gender-specific sanitation facilities. Without the privacy afforded by these facilities, menstruating school girls and staff often do not feel comfortable using school facilities, resulting in absenteeism 10-20% of the time.

Held at the 2019 Kumbha Mela in GIWA’s renowned encampment on the confluence of the Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati Rivers, the Summit of Grace provided a unique opportunity and platform to address these issues and empower women against the social taboos of the society.

The Objectives of the Summit of Grace Were:

  1. To advocate around Menstrual Hygiene Management as a key driver in India for breaking taboos and silence around the issue, to share knowledge on how to manage menstruation hygienically and proper disposal, and to lobby for MHM-friendly sanitation facilities.
  1. To inspire and enable a new wave of women leadership for a clean and healthy India where all have equal opportunities.
  1. To provide inspirational round table discussions with key influencers
  1. To develop roadmaps and follow-up activities that will enable the continuation of the momentum built on this Summit
  1. To position both women and men as leaders in the effort


Renowned leaders from across India and around the world came together for the Summit, including:

Political Leaders

  • Smt. Sumitra Mahajan, Hon’ble Speaker of Lok Sabha
  • Hon’ble Shri Satyapal Singh, Minister of State for Human Resource Development, Minister of State in the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation
  • Hon’ble Meenakshi Lekhan, MP
  • Smt. Rita Bahuguna Joshi, Hon’ble Minister of Women and Child Development, State of Uttar Pradesh (population 204 million)

Faith Leaders

  • Pujya Swami Ramdevji
  • Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji
  • Anandmurti Gurumaaji
  • Amma Sri Karunamayiji
  • Sadhvi Shilapiji (Jain Faith)
  • BK Sister Sudeshji
  • Om Prabha Bhartiji, DJJS
  • Dr. Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji
  • Respected Smt. Kiranjot Kaurji (Sikh Leader)
  • Dr. Binny Sareenji (Brahma Kumaris)
  • Mahant Divya Giriji
  • Distinguished Representative of Juna Akhara
  • Distinguished Representative of the Muslim Faith
  • Sadhvi Prachi Kalpanaji,
  • Swamini Adityananda Saraswatiji
  • Mohan Devi
  • And more

International Leaders

  • Sue Coates, Deputy Executive Director, WSSCC
  • Javier Aguilar Chief Child Protection, UNICEF, ICO
  • HE, the Former President and First Lady of Bosnia Haris Silajdžić, and Selma Silajdžić
  • And many others

The Summit was also attended by

  • Women’s Group Leaders
  • Faith Group Followers
  • Local Community Leaders
  • Students and Community Volunteers
  • Swachhagrahis
  • Staff and Dignitaries from agencies including WSSCC and UNICEF
  • Pilgrims to the Kumbha Mela
  • Swachhta Heroes
  • And more

About GIWA

GIWA is the globe’s first organization to bring together the leaders of all faiths and people from across India and around the world to inspire a planet where everyone, everywhere can have access to sustainable and healthy water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).

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