Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA)

Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji is the Secretary-General of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA), the 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.

Since the dawn of history, faith has provided a foundation from which social norms develop. It is to faith leaders that billions are drawn to in times of joy and sorrow, as well as in the search for inner meaning. As teachers to the masses, the words of faith leaders motivate, persuade and enable. Through their speech and actions, they can bring about change in ways that others, quite simply, cannot.

An estimated 5 billion people across the world are members of religious communities, underscoring the critical role religious leaders can play in addressing seemingly intractable problems – such as access to safe water and sanitation.

GIWA envisions a water-secure world in which safe and sustainable drinking water and improved sanitation will be accessible for all.

“Throughout history, religious leaders have implored their congregations and followers to ‘love thy neighbour’ and to refrain from acts of violence. In our world today, however, that is no longer enough. Today, our religious leaders have come together to say that permitting our brothers and sisters across the world to suffer and perish due to lack of safe, clean, sufficient water is also violence, and it is our duty to work together to ensure access to water and sanitation for all people, of all religions and all cultures.” – Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji

The Global Interfaith WASH Alliance brings together the world to ensure information is shared and policies are secured so that all may have access to improved water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).

Our on-the-ground programmes concentrate in India, which is home to the most people in the world who live without access to improved sanitation (814 million). Additionally, 97 million people in India are still not able to access improved drinking water.

Mainly due to poor water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), India leads the world in the numbers of deaths of children under the age of five. Many of these tragic deaths could have been prevented.

To ensure the survival and bright futures of our children, the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance of India is harnessing the power of religion to educate and promote stewardship of water resources, and to bring about safe water, sanitation and hygiene.

Our Projects Include:

Teaching the Principles of WASH

giwa-thumbs-(5)GIWA India is teaching the life-saving principles of water stewardship, hygiene and sanitation through outreach in places of worship, in villages, schools, medical camps and through media-based public education.

Ensuring Clean Water

giwa-thumbs (2)Water is life. Yet, in India, 97 million people don’t have access to safe drinking water. GIWA is working diligently to promote and provide safe water for all, including working with the Government of Uttarakhand and partners to help four million school children and their families have access to clean water.

Improving Health and Keeping Children in School Through Sanitation

giwa-thumbs (4)The lack of a mother’s access to primary education has been cited as a direct reason behind raised instances of childhood disease and death. As many girls in India drop out of school simply because they lack the privacy that enclosed toilet facilities offer, schools are specifically targeted for the provision of privacy-protecting biotoilet facilities. Additionally, through GIWA, students will learn about water conservation, alongside powerful lessons in proper sanitation and hygiene.

Serving Disaster Zones Under the Principles of WASH

giwa-thumbs (3)All too often in India, provisions such as toilet facilities become of secondary importance to the rapid reconstruction of housing destroyed by natural calamities. GIWA India is working alongside Project Hope, Ganga Action Parivar and other partners in the disaster-torn Himalayas of Uttarakhand, India, to provide direct emergency relief as well as to rebuild entire villages that are in harmony with the principles of WASH. This will include WASH-based education, the provision of biotoilets, fresh water systems, rainwater harvesting facilities, water-saving agricultural resources, and environmental awareness education that is specifically designed to motivate residents to protect their aquifers.

WASH for Peace

giwa-thumbs (7)GIWA brings together the leaders and congregations of all faiths in order to combine forces to ensure that everyone, everywhere has access to safe and healthy Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH).

GIWA was founded with the realization that it is to faith leaders that people turn in times of joy and sorrow. And it is to faith leaders that billions of people come to when seeking advice or moral direction. By joining together, great strides can be made so that all can realize a more just and sustainable future in which everyone, everywhere has access to safe and healthy Water, Sanitation and Hygiene.


giwa-thumbs (1)GIWA works with leaders and policy makers from across India and around the world to advocate for improved access to safe, healthy and sustainable Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) for all. We also produce informative policy papers and publications that delve deeply into pressing issues, such as sustainable development and the rejuvenation of key water sources, including the Ganga and Yamuna Rivers.

In addition, GIWA is spearheading the National Ganga Rights Campaign and has co-authored a draft National Ganga River Rights Act, which, if passed into law, would be the first in India that grants a river the same rights to exist and thrive as a person would have.

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