On Tuesday, hashtag #WorldWaterDay will no doubt again flood Twitter feeds.
This year’s theme focuses on people — those whose jobs rely on water, from the traditional female water carrier in many remote villages in Africa, fishermen and farmers to water utility workers who test the safety of drinking water. Almost half of the world's workers — 1.5 billion people — work in water-related sectors and nearly all jobs depend on water and those that ensure its safe delivery, according to the United Nations.
But #WorldWaterDay isn’t the only hashtag to watch on this U.N.-designated day. Charity: Water will also be launching its 10th anniversary campaign, #FightDirty. It’s a bit early, according to the charity’s CEO Scott Harrison, as the organization doesn’t officially turn 10 years old until September. But he said the team has “so many ideas on how to honor the past, and also look forward to the future.”
The campaign will run for 10 months starting Tuesday, with the aim of honoring those who’ve helped bring clean water to different places in Africa, Asia, and Central and South America where the organization is active, as well as to inspire more people to join the team in the fight to bring clean drinking water to the remaining 663 million people who still live without it, Harrison said in a video clip.
The charity frequently uses hashtags in its campaigns. In September 2015, it raised $1.8 million dollars in a campaign that used the hashtag#nothingiscrazy.
But it’s not the only organization that has entered the world of hashtag-based campaigns for water. This World Water Day, we look back at three other hashtags that championed the provision of clean drinking water around the world.
At close to 7 million views on YouTube, this campaign video by Water is Life in 2012 — where it “hijacked” the popular hashtag #firstworldproblems — no doubt reached a sizable number of people for a campaign that aimed to raise awareness about lack of clean drinking water, proper sanitation and hygiene in many parts of the world. The charity didn’t reveal how much money the campaign helped raise, only that it was “enough donations” to help provide “over 1 million days worth of clean water to those in need.”
Waves for Water is another nonprofit that used an existing popular hashtag in its campaign. During World Water Day 2015, the organization, in partnership with American apparel company Hurley, hijacked the hashtag #nofilter, and pledged to provide a gallon of clean drinking water to communities around the world for every #nofilter post on Instagram, the platform where the hashtag is most popular. The organization calculated that each of its water filters could provide 1 million gallons of water. By the end of the campaign, Waves for Water counted almost 160 million mentions of the #nofilter hashtag, which translated to 160 million gallons of water using 160 water filters.
In 2012, two of WaterAid’s field staff live-blogged and posted Instagram photos to document the progress of the organization’s work drilling boreholes to provide safe drinking water to thousands of people in the remote villages of Bokola and Kaniche in Malawi. The posts, which used the hashtag #thebigdig, showed just how the money from the organization’s The Big Dig Appeal — which aimed to raise 1.2 million pounds to provide clean water to 134,000 people in the two villages — was being used. The appeal was able to raise over 1 million pounds ($1.44 million), which was matched by the United Kingdom.
Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex senior reporter based in Manila. Since 2011, she has covered a wide range of development and humanitarian aid issues, from leadership and policy changes at DfID to the logistical and security impediments faced by international and local aid responders in disaster-prone and conflict-affected countries in Africa and Asia. Her interests include global health and the analysis of aid challenges and trends in sub-Saharan Africa.
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