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Visionaries - April 22, 2022

Myriam Sidibe: An African Health Activist Driving Global Change

Myriam Sidibe, a changemaker, is well-known for assisting brands in making a genuine social effect. 

She has become a significant voice in this sphere, having come from the Unilever school of thought, where the previous CEO Paul Polman coined the motto “corporates with a purpose.”

She also collaborates with organisations such as Millennium Villages, the World Bank, Population Service International (PSI), Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP), Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program (MCHIP), and United States Agency for International Development (USAID). 

This is to help educate people about the importance of handwashing with soap.  And furthermore to implement programs that will help people develop healthy handwashing habits for the rest of their lives.

Myriam is the Chief Mission Officer and Founder of Brands on a Mission. A B-corp that is spearheading a paradigm shift in how corporations and governments think about health, well-being, and sustainability.

Her mission is to get brands and enterprises to use their business models to drive an impact on health and wellbeing. 

She is also the co-founder and Chair of Kenya’s National Business Compact on Coronavirus. As well as the creator of the multi-award-winning and UN-recognized Global Handwashing Day, which is currently observed in over 100 countries. 

She started a drive within Unilever to improve one billion people’s handwashing habits, making it the world’s largest hygiene behaviour modification program.

Myriam is a Research Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government. 

She is also an honorary Professor of Practice at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. 

Myriam Sidibe Drive for Hand Hygiene 

Myriam Sidibe TED talk, The Simple Power of Handwashing, which was aired in 2014, over a million views on YouTube. 

In the video, Sidibe stated that she and her team have impacted 183 million people in 16 countries. She stated their ambition to reach 1 billion people by 2020. 

The COVID-19 pandemic that ensued in 2020, caused people to wash and sanitise their hands always. One can say Sidibe has had her ambition achieved. 

During that COVID-19 lockdowns, Sidibe said, “In parallel, the rest of everything else I am working on hasn’t stopped either.

“I am a public health worker. I have spent 20 plus years thinking about handwashing and most of it from the private sector, now is the time to accelerate these learnings to the world.”

She is the author of the best-selling book Brands on a Mission: How to Achieve Social Impact and Business Growth through Purpose. 

Her movement, Brands on a Mission came as a result of the book, which is truly transforming corporate behaviour for the better.

She has been named one of the world’s 100 most influential Africans for her efforts to change global corporate behaviour.

Her advocacy for sustainability and doing both good and well has gained popularity around the world, particularly as corporations adapt to a new type of stakeholder capitalism.

Sidibe’s influence has grown significantly, and her movement is prodding, if not forcing, businesses large and small to prioritise sustainability in their plans.

More on Myriam Sidibe achievements 

Myriam Sidibe is one of just a few people in the world with a doctorate in public health specialising in soap-free handwashing. 

She has spent 14 years as the Global Social Mission Director for Lifebuoy soap. Where she worked with thousands of children to figure out the most efficient ways to convince them to wash their hands with soap before eating and after using the restroom.

She is a senior Fellow at the Mossavar Rahmani Center for Business and Government at Harvard Kennedy School.

Sidibe oversees Social Mission activities in 55 countries in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America, with the goal of seeing more people stick to the habit of washing their hands.


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