Women for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Summit

Uniting women faith leaders to influence WASH behaviours

Swamini Adityananda Saraswati, The Global Inter-faith WASH Alliance (GIWA)
women religious leaders
UNICEF India/2014
01 November 2014

Women faith leaders from across India and around the world came together for a mega-summit organised by the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA) with technical support from UNICEF on 30 November 2014 on the banks of Ganga, at Rishikesh.

Over 100 women leaders from across India, the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe and Africa participated, representing Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Jainism, Sikhism and Buddhism.

The women leaders discussed and committed themselves towards playing active and collaborative roles in saving children and their communities of followers from death, disease and stunting through the improved WASH (Water, Sanitation & Hygiene). They shared their views and helped chalk out ways forward in enabling a water-secure world in which all have access to sustainable WASH.

The summit focused on the WASH needs and issues of women and girls in communities. The leaders underscored the need for changing mindsets, breaking social taboos and cultural influences that inhibit women. They called for concerted action to openly address sensitive topics of puberty, menstruation and the perils of open defecation that are linked to education for girls and women’s health.

The Summit also focused on garnering and leveraging the influential role of women faith leaders in bringing about behaviour change, particularly regarding open defecation, amongst their followers. It stressed on the fact that women play an indisputably key role in behaviour norms in any family and community and, focusing on changing behaviours of women leads to change in a community as a whole.

At the conclusion of the Summit, GIWA Co-Founder, Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji thanked and lauded the resolve of women leaders to take the WASH Revolution forward to every home, every school and every community by uniting and using their power as the embodiment of the Divine Feminine.

This was the first ever summit for Women faith leaders and it has led to GIWA’s Women for WASH Initiative.


The Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA) is world’s first initiative that is engaging the planet’s many faiths as allies in efforts to create a world where every human being has access to safe drinking water, improved sanitation and proper hygiene.

Launched by UNICEF in its Headquarters under the sponsorship of the Government of the Netherlands and USAID, GIWA envisions a water-secure world in which safe and sustainable drinking water and improved sanitation will be accessible for all.

UNICEF’s India Country Office provides technical support and advice through its partnership with GIWA in India to strengthen the engagement of faith-based organisations and leaders towards raising awareness and creating new social norms connected with sanitation and hygiene in India. The engagement embraces the spirit of Government of India’s Swachh Bharat Mission (Clean India Mission) and opens the way to reach millions of people and promote positive WASH practices as part of their way of life.