Global Handwashing Day 2016 in Bhutan: a compassionate act


In Bhutan, celebrations for Global Handwashing Day on 15 October have traditionally focused on schools, with activities held across the country. This year, however, it was the first time ever the celebrations were also held with monastic institutions.

The celebration of Global Handwashing Day culminated with a celebration of the auspicious Dechenphodrang Monastery, meaning the “Palace of Great Bliss”. It is also known to be Thimphu’s original Dzong dating back to the 12th century. In collaboration with the Monastic body, UNICEF, MoH, SNV, 7 different monastic institutions and nunneries and approximately 200+ student monks, nuns and their teachers joined at the monastery to observe the day’s events under the slogan of “Making handwashing a habit”.

It was a day filled with excitement for the youngest student monks and nuns who participated in art competitions, skits and competitions to design the most innovative handwashing facilities.  Preparations had been held in the weeks leading up to the day, including visits from health officials at each instituion to encourage and reinforce the messages. The event was opened with traditional ceremonies, including the lighting of the butter lamps and a speech by special guest, the venerable Lesgtsho Lopen Sangay Dorji, who encouraged the students to link handwashing to their practice: “Making handwashing a habit and helping others to practice it is one of the qualities of a compassionate human being.”