Music can be a powerful tool for social change. Take celebrated Nigerian artist Sunny Neji’s handwashing anthem, for example. Although it was developed for Global Handwashing Day, it is highly applicable during this unprecedented and global coronavirus pandemic.
Since 2014, Neji has collaborated with the NGO Concern Universal – already well-versed in effective communications – and Carex to raise awareness about why handwashing is so critical, when to do it, and how to do it right. His support has been particularly welcome, given that handwashing is not necessarily considered a ‘sexy’ or high-profile topic. Yet, it’s a simple but effective way to prevent and reduce the occurrence of various diseases, including diarrhoea and respiratory illnesses, which are among the leading causes of death worldwide – for children and adults alike.
Propelled by Neji’s catchy anthem, “Wash Your Hands O!”, in 2015 the campaign reached 45,000 children across Nigeria and the United Kingdom, approximately 500,000 people worldwide via social media, and close to 3 million people through jingles and interviews on local television and radio.
In an interview with NPR, Neji reflects on the song’s success, saying: “People are singing the song a lot! And kids are doing their own interpretations in their native dialects. It’s such a beautiful thing.”
During the 2015 campaign, Concern Universal even facilitated a talent competition – ‘CareX Factor’ – where school children created their own renditions of the song. At the competition’s finale on Global Handwashing Day, the winning schools performed with Neji to an audience of about 500 people. Read more
Neji’s anthem continues to be used as a fun and effective way to raise awareness about such an important behaviour. Judging by the number of views, the song may not be viral in the web 2.0 sense. But through online and offline channels it has played an essential part in reaching millions of people in Nigeria, and hundreds of thousands worldwide.
Wash your hands O!