Rishikesh: Global Citizen India, a social advocacy platform, an initiative of the Global Education and Leadership Foundation (tGELF), and the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance, the world’s first initiative to bring faith leaders and faith traditions together to improve water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), launched a partnership campaign on International Youth Day at Parmarth Niketan (Rishikesh) to raise awareness on the issues of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene called #WASHUP. The partnership was launched on the last day of the tGELF annual LIFE conference by Honourable Chief Minister of Uttarakhand Trivendra Singh Rawat, Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswati, President of Parmarth Niketan, Co-Founder of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA), Sadhvi Bhagawati, Secretary-General, GIWA, Founder and Chairman of tGELF, Shiv Khemka, Maulana Syed Kokab Mujtaba Abidi, Sufi Syed Salman Chisthy, Gaddi Nashin-Dargah Ajmer Sharif along with over 200 young leaders from more than 20 countries.
The launch took place the concluding ceremony of the two day annual leadership summit by Global Education and Leadership Foundation (tGELF)’s entitled “Leadership Initiative For Excellence (LIFE)” which was held at Parmarth Niketan (Rishikesh) from the 10th -12th August. This three-day retreat for nearly 200 youth leaders and their mentors from across the world was designed to engage in core values of LEAD – Leadership, Ethics, Altruism and Decisive action. This year’s theme was “LEAD from Within.” Attendees participated in curated, moderated roundtable discussions on matters of the world, mind and spirit. The summit also included a visit to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram (popularly known as the Beatles Ashram), daily yoga and meditation, morning walks through the Himalayan Mountains and concluded every evening with the divine, world renowned Ganga Aarti ceremony.
The Hon’ble Chief Minister of Uttarakhand joined the Summit with his family on the 11th August for the Ganga Aarti ceremony and was the Chief Guest for the launch ceremony.
The launch of the #WASHUp campaign began with a panel discussion moderated by tGELF’s Youth Leaders Aayush Baid and Akshita Bhanj Deo and GIWA’s Youth Coordinator Ganga Nandini and a few key questions from the youth were asked to the respected panelists.
Honourable Chief Minister of Uttarakhand Trivendra Singh Rawat said, “Social change can only happen when we bring everyone together. When we can join together, walk together, eat together and be together then we can think together and serve together. That which makes us human is our ability to think for others, not just for ourselves. We need to have the courage and strength to make decisions not just for ourselves, but for the greater humanity. Water conservation and river rejuvenation are so important and Pujya Swamiji has given me and the state so much inspiration. Through his inspiration, and with his holy presence, we also just planted lakhs of trees. The campaign was so successful that in the early morning, as the rain was pouring down, people came in such large numbers that there were actually more people than there were trees. That is how impassioned they were, making the event a great success. The cleaning and greening of our world must be as a social movement just like this.”
Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswati, President of Parmarth Niketan, Co-Founder of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA) stated, “I think the most important mantra for the youth today is to be social, be vocal, be global, be local and be digital. Hence, as we invite you to all to be part of the #WASHUP launch today, we also encourage you to work with us throughout the next several months by putting this mantra into action. Each one of us can be part of the solution, being the balm that heals all that ails our sacred rivers, our environment and our collective humanity. For this we need for our youth to stay enthusiastic, excited and inspired, contributing with the 4T’s of their Time, Talent, Technology and Tenacity. Lastly, I would like to remind the youth of today who are eager to serve their communities and be global leaders is that you are just a tool in the hands of the Divine and your greatest Dharma and duty is to serve with full commitment and conviction to create a cleaner, greener world for all beings.”
Shiv Khemka, Chairman, The Global Education and Leadership Foundation (tGELF) believes that India and its 800 million young people must play a vital role in the mission to achieve the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. ”Young people are starting to engage with the challenges facing our country and the planet, and are becoming increasingly committed to taking action for social change. TGELF’s mission is to nurture and support ethical, altruistic and decisive leadership amongst young people at schools and colleges. Each one of us is responsible for our actions and the power of each action taken collectively can help achieve the global goals,”
Sufi Syed Salman Chisthy, Gaddi Nashin-Dargah Ajmer Sharif expressed, “Now is a crucial time, we must not wait until tomorrow. The young leaders here have amazing ideas. Now is the time to take them into action. A sacred message that all must take forward is to transfer practical messages to society for a better world. Prophet Mohammed, Peace Be Upon Him, said cleanliness is half of faith. Now is time to take up the cause.”
Sadhvi Bhagawati shared, “The youth are not only the next generation. They are the now generation. You are all the leaders who will shape the planet that we live in to be a more sustainable one. For this it’s wonderful that you are not only empowered with both speed AND a focused direction to lead the world toward a future that is healthy, happy and sustainable for all.”
Maulana Syed Kokab Mujtaba Abidi said, “Before I am a Muslim, I am a human. Rather than identifying as our separate religions, we must identify as our shared humanity. This is the value we must carry forth together. We are of one family, sharing a common humanity, and we must walk together. I am so inspired by today, and by the words and messages of Pujya Swamiji.
Sadhvi Bhagawati added on a question on gender equality, “Women and girls are at the core of the work we are doing. It is tragic that nearly 25% of girls in India drop out of school when they start to menstruate due simply to lack of clean, private toilets and proper menstrual hygiene education. We must ensure their needs, including for clean and private toilets, are met in all schools. For this, we are so excited by our Women for WASH Initiative, which is empowering women to build toilets, build livelihoods and build healthy communities as they lead the way toward a clean and healthy India.”
Shiv Khemkaji added, “Great leadership begins with compassion and sharing the suffering of others. If we put ourselves in the places of those without toilets, we will realize the importance of helping them to overcome their burdens. In terms of water, we must learn from the best practices of the planet. GIWA is so important because it is all about humanity coming together and staying together for mighty causes. We were so thrilled to have GIWA as part of Global Citizen and we look forward to working closely together. I’m so proud of Pujya Swamiji for preparing a Global Water Charter for the United Nations, as this is a global problem, and it needs a global solution.”
The launch ceremony concluded with a beautiful water blessing ceremony, a special honouring of the Hon’ble Chief Minister as a truly ethical leader who inspires and encourages young people to be and lead the change. The honours were done by tGELF’s Leadership Development Fellows and Youth Leaders Amisha Shahra, Louis Leonidas Georgia, Hiteshwar Kochhar, Shivish Soni and Vinay Kumar There was also a special green pledge that took place with youth leaders holding fruit, medicinal plants and rich oxygen giving trees in their hands to symbolise their commitment to be green leaders.
During the launch of WASHUP, it was shared that the first phase of campaign will span nine months and will use hybrid media and utilize both online and offline engagements along with development partners to host a distinctive mix of events including but not limited to: grassroots activism, mass awareness raising during faith based events/festivals, the upcoming Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, media campaigning and online activation, to catalyse India’s journey towards achieving the Global Goals for Sustainable Development.