Every minute, a newborn dies from an infection caused by a lack of safe water and an unclean environment.
This scary and inconvenient truth has long seen united citizens, local changemakers, and world leaders work to make clean water and basic sanitation universally accessible.
Among the hygiene and sanitation champions of the world is Rosie Wheen, CEO of WaterAid Australia; Susanne Legena, CEO of Plan International; and Sarah Spiker, project operations manager with the Cotton On Foundation. On Thursday, Nov. 22, these inspiring activists graced the Global Citizen stage to call for a fundamental shift for water and sanitation initiatives during the 2018 Global Citizen World Toilet Day event.
In front of a seated crowd of engaged citizens and youth activists, Sarah Meredith, the Australian country director at Global Citizen, introduced the panellists and conveyed Global Citizen's long-standing commitment to tackling sanitation discrimination.
"It has been a long struggle, but we continue our movement in pushing the Australian government and opposition to include water and sanitation as a top priority of the Australian aid budget," she stated.
Susanne Legena, Rosie Wheen and Sarah Spiker alongside Sarah Meredith at the 2018 World Toilet Day Event.
Next to address the audience was Spiker, of the Cotton On Foundation.
The Cotton On Foundation, Spiker told the audience, exists to empower youth globally through quality education projects throughout Australia, South Africa, Southern Uganda, and Thailand. Throughout the last 10 years, the foundation has raised $13.5 million directly through the sale of $2 Cotton On products like tote bags and everyday accessories.
"We have the responsibility to drive real social change," Spiker stated. "There is so much crossover between the Sustainable Development Goals. Water and sanitation issues run through them all."
CEO of WaterAid Australia Rosie Wheen then spoke passionately about WaterAid’s goal to address the relationship between global malnourishment and unclean water.
"Since 2000, billions of people have gained access to clean water and decent toilets," Wheen told Global Citizen. "However, 2.3 billion people still don’t have access to a decent toilet. People continue to face enormous barriers to leading healthy, dignified, fulfilling lives."
Recognised water, sanitation, and hygiene leader and Plan International CEO Susanne Legena shared that Plan International is an organisation that places children's hopes, desires, and dreams at the centre of everything they do. Legena said that the organisation's tireless work in the WASH sector is all so that the most disadvantaged children can grow up happy and healthy.
While relaying Plan International’s ultimate mission, Legena also revealed that the WASH sector "desperately needs more passionate people from every career path and job title."
"We can't afford to leave people out of this discussion," she stated.
At the end of the panel discussion, the audience had the opportunity to vote on a live poll, which asked for their opinions on the most efficient way to make water, sanitation, and hygiene advancements.
The choices were universal access to soap and warm water, appropriate faecal waste management systems, access to toilet paper, access to safe and affordable drinking water, increasing the number school toilet blocks, addressing gender equality, building the capacity of wash professionals, and ensuring water and sanitation issues remain on the political agenda.
Forty-seven percent of voters landed on addressing gender inequality, with school toilet blocks and building the capacity of wash professionals in second and third place, respectively.
Global Citizen holds events around the world, year-round. The Australian Global Citizen team are always adding new exciting events in cities across the country - so make sure you check back on the website for announcements on upcoming events. These events provide an opportunity for people to join the conversation with likeminded Global Citizens, hear from pioneering activists creating incredible change, meet the Australian Global Citizen team, and learn how to increase impact within their community and beyond.