The incredible success of the #Sweat4Soap campaign in the UAE was largely attributed to two incredible female athletes, from opposite cultural backgrounds, who use their voices to address social causes, Australian Mina Guli and Egyptian Manal Rostom. The concept created a movement of runners across the globe to log their miles for bars of soap, raising awareness for the 3 billion people around world who do not have access to water and soap. The campaign is the brainchild of Mina Guli, ultra-runner and recognised global leader fighting to avert the world water crises. In Dubai, the social support accelerated after the #Sweat4Soap campaign was embraced by Manal Rostom, the trailblazing social advocate who is the first Hijab wearing Nike running coach.
Snapshot campaign results
Project Maji invited ‘water warrior’ Mina Guli to Ghana in 2019 to witness firsthand our solar-powered water kiosks and the enormous impact a sustainable source of safe water has on communities. The pledge was made to partner for water in 2020, and Mina’s 50th birthday appeared to be the right moment. To commemorate her ‘Fab at Fifty’ (October 10) and the Global Handwashing Day (October 15), Mina launched #Sweat4Soap, a week-long campaign hand-hygiene awareness campaign to emphasize the life-saving practice of handwashing in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak. Project Maji supported the campaign by mobilising Maji Buckets, low cost and zero-touch handwashing stations.
Mina Guli visiting a Project Maji community in 2019 in the Volta River in Ghana, making music with the local children
Giving up is no option
From having no interest in running and sports as a child, Mina Guli ran several marathons to raise awareness about the global water problem. When asked if she ever gives up, Mina responded by saying “When you have seen what I have seen and been where I have been, there is no option but to keep going!”
She continues: “In 2018, we came up with the idea to run 100 marathons in 100 days across some of the world’s most water-scarce places where there were people, stories and communities we could bring attention to. By the time I got to day 62, I was severely injured. My team decided to carry the burden of the water problem and run for me. Soon, people around the world started to run and by the time we got to day 100, thousands of people had run marathons from all over the world.”
“Running helped me build a community for this purpose. When people realised that there is this crazy woman who wants to run 100 marathons in 100 days when she does not even like running, they were curious and then they became more involved in the conversation about water. I wanted to show what it takes to solve these big global problems. Pushing myself beyond my comfort zone helped me push companies, investors and policymakers beyond what they traditionally accepted and found ways to make real change happen.” We refer to Aqua for All, who generously supported the #Sweat4Soap campaign with 375 Maji Buckets (handwashing stations), for the full interview with Mina.
The second female force for good, Manal Rostom. Manal is the global face of the Nike Pro Hijab in 2017, an Egyptian sports enthusiast who has many firsts to her name. Not only is she the first Hijabi woman to model in a Nike Running Campaign, she is also the first Egyptian to complete 5 out of 6 World Marathon Majors, as well as the first Egyptian woman to run the Great Wall of China Marathon. With a Facebook and Instagram following of over 95,000 followers, Manal is also the founder of the award-winning Facebook Group: “Surviving Hijab”, a 750,000 women’s only closed group actively defying stereotypes that hinder Hijabi women’s participation in sports, and in society in general.
Manal’s plane ticket was booked, and passport visa was stamped to join the Project Maji team in March 2020 to celebrate World Water Day in Ghana. We all know what happened, and unfortunately, we were unable to run to various water sources to understand the grave drinking water issues Africa is facing. Manal: “It has been my dream to give back to my continent and be more present combining sports and doing good, so hopefully we can fulfill this dream when the time is right.”
It does not come as a surprise that Manal embraced the #Sweat4Soap campaign, and her social reach created a tidal wave of support among runners in Dubai. Her Manic Run Club & The City ladies-only run club logged 50km at the beginning of the campaign, which triggered many athletes to join the movement for action. “I am so incredibly proud of my Manic Run Club & The City ladies, who come from all different cultural backgrounds. But when we run, we are one, have fun and get fit at the same time. More importantly, we always run for a purpose and we were honored to lift the #Sweat4Soap campaign to a different level by using our voices for good in the UAE. Each member onward-shared the message, creating an avalanche of support within many families and (run) communities in Dubai.”
Sunil Lalvani, founder and CEO of Project Maji: “#Sweat4Soap has been an amazing success. We are floored with the traction it has gained. This enables us to deliver well over the projected number of touch-free handwashing stations we initially envisioned. We can now reach more remote communities who are currently vulnerable to a number of diseases, including COVID19, due to a lack of the most basic medicine in the world … soap and water. A huge thank you to all who have contributed, and a big shout out to Mina and Manal.”