Inspiring the Press for WASH with UNICEF

A National Meeting to inspire editors and eminent journalists from all across India to prioritize and raise awareness on Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan (Clean India Mission) and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) was held in Delhi on the 28th March, organized by UNICEF, Global Interfaith WASH Alliance and Samyak Foundation.

Tragic statistics on how critical and dire the sanitation situation is in India were shared. Emphasis was laid on how India leads the world in the number of people who lack access to adequate sanitation facilities. India, sadly, also leads the world in the number of children under the age of five who die every year due to lack of WASH, some 1,200 children perish daily. It was also shared that these statistics do not even begin to account for the number of children who suffer from stunting and malnutrition, which are issues intimately intertwined with and significantly worsened by the lack of WASH.

During the meeting, GIWA Co-Founder/Co-Chair, HH Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji passionately shared the need to act now to change this unfortunate situation and guarantee every child and every
individual the chance to not only survive but to thrive to their fullest potential.

He also gave the National level editors several beautiful and inspiring and innovative mantras, “Today, I am so glad to see GIWA’s 3H Programme: Health, Hygiene and Harmony blossoming and thriving. Leaders of different faiths and representatives of different media houses are present here, as one family to promote not only health and hygiene but also to illustrate that we are ready to work together in harmony to bring our mission of improved WASH to all. The powerful confluence of Media, Mahatma (saints) and Mahila (women) Shakti coming together here can truly catalyze lasting and sustainable change.”

Sadhvi Bhagawatiji, Secretary-General of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance, explained, “It is wonderful to have the media gathered together here today. Your divine challenge and responsibility is not only to share the news but also to make the news! You are the ones who determine which stories, out of countless millions, count as “news,” and from your news today, tomorrow’s future is created. Pujya Swamiji always emphasizes the importance of providing not only information but also inspiration. This is the great role you can play! Sadly, the majority of the news that we read today is often tragic events that we can’t do very much about other than pray – wars, genocide, political upheaval, etc. However, the 1200 deaths every day in India of our young children due simply to lack of WASH is something we CAN do something about. Our actions could save so many lives each day. So, we implore you to create and share news that masses can read, be touched and inspired by and then take action in their daily lives. Also, there is a great need to highlight the countless success stories that illustrate our nation’s spirit of social entrepreneurship and positive change.”

Many great ideas were shared during the meeting and the main action items were summarized in four key measures:

  • Screening of films and documentaries to continue raising awareness on these issues would be organized for the masses
  • Regional level meetings with religious leaders and key media representatives would be planned
  • Larger events to follow-up on the topics of discussion were discussed.
  • Involving youth and the GenNext is also part of GIWA’s future plans.

Pujya Swamiji summarized, “You all came in today as Patrikars (reporters) but you are leaving as Partners. You now have the great opportunity to go back into your respective media houses and to ensure that in addition to a department for Editing we should also create one department for Auditing. We need to audit our contributions to the progress and implementation of WASH schemes and projects. Let us commit to a shift in focus from ‘Breaking News’ to ‘Making News’. Let us bring all our powers together for catalyzing a change that truly illustrates the great power we have when we work together as one family.”

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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