Bangladesh: PPP and Underlying Priorities, a Case

Public toilet opened in Bangladesh

The Initiative

BRAC and Unilever Bangladesh Ltd have jointly launched a disabled-friendly public toilet in Khulna, Bangladesh. It incudes breastfeeding and diaper changing corners, feminine hygiene facilities, standard handwashing space, and safe drinking water. It was inaugurated on 24 February 2020, by Talukder Abdul Khalek, Mayor of Khulna city. Asif Saleh, Executive Director of BRAC, and Kedar Lele, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Unilever Bangladesh Ltd, were also present at the event. The highly secured facility will be maintained by professional cleaners and women caretakers with government supervision. BRAC Urban Development Programme and Unilever Bangladesh Ltd constructed the facility on land allocated by Khulna City Corporation, aligning with the government's public-private-partnership policy.

BRAC and Unilever Bangladesh Limited jointly launched a public toilet with features for persons with disabilities at Shaheed Hadith Park in Khulna city today on Monday, 24 February. The facility provides separate toilets for men and women along with standard hand-washing space and safe drinking water. In addition to these, there are options for women to change sanitary napkins and their babies' diapers and also have access to a safe and hygienic breastfeeding chamber.

The public toilet will be managed by Khulna Nagar Unnayan Mohila Samabay Samiti, a local women's cooperative with around 80,000 members.

Talukder Abdul Khalek, mayor of Khulna city, inaugurated the facility at the event also attended by Asif Saleh, Executive Director, BRAC, Kedar Lele, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Unilever Bangladesh Limited, and Liakath Ali, Director, Urban Development Programme, BRAC.

Close circuit TV cameras have been installed at the entry and exit points of the facility to ensure tight security.

At the inauguration event, Mr Khalek said, “This public facility sets a good example of collaboration between public, private and community. We have to ensure that it is not used for any unwanted purposes. More such modern and inclusive toilets will be built in our city in the future."

Mr Saleh said, “Safe sanitation is a major challenge in urban areas of Bangladesh, especially for women and girls. This initiative has aimed to address that very problem. This is a unique example of public-private-social sector partnership which brought a sustainable solution for people living in poverty in the urban space."

Mr Lele said, “Access to sanitation is a basic human right, but not everyone is privileged enough to get it. With various features installed in this toilet, this partnership not only aims to provide sanitation, but aims to develop basic cleanliness habits. We believe only providing sanitation is not sufficient enough, but instilling hygiene habits is a necessity too. Through our products we focus on betterment of health and saving lives. As Unilever, we wish to see Bangladesh with proper sanitation services and this is just the beginning of a revolution. I thank BRAC and the honourable mayor of Khulna City Corporation for making us a partner for this initiative.”

The newly built public toilet will be maintained by professional cleaners and female caretakers with government supervision. BRAC Urban Development Programme, under a memorandum with Unilever Bangladesh Limited constructed the facility on the land allocated by Khulna City Corporation, aligning with the government's public-private-partnership policy.

Comments

I cannot help but noticing that disabled persons and women are conspicuously absent from this photo. Let me guess: the men featured represent those that paid for it, and whose names are on the plaque (a Bangladeshi custom that should be completely unnecessary).

Partha, thanks for uour comment, which I agree with. The important thing is, after all, that this facility be used. Which brings up another issue: will diapers and other necessities be available? And if so, for free? If not, which I assume to be the case, this facility will cater to people in the middle class and above who can afford purchasing these items. The poor cannot afford it, and may for the most not have a culture of using, for example, diapers. If so, is this another example of the urban middle class taking care of its own? I agree, of course, that this is a good initiative, but I am not convinced it addresses the problem nationwide. Also, in terms of prioritizing, I should think that clean drinking water is rather more important than some of the other issues being addressed.

I realize that my comments may come across as negative, compared with the overwhelming majority of positive comments (for the most one-word comments - which are not very informative, I may add). Accordingly, allow me to place my cromments in a broader context. Work like this is about using meager resources to do as much good as possible to as many as possible. Further, this is always a question of priorities. What do to, in order to reach as many as possible among those that are most in need of support? On this background I maintain my criticism. As far as I can see, this is not the best way to use meager resources to reach as many as possible of those really in need. Simply put, in this case it would seem that the underlying rationale was to help ones own, which likely are not those most in need.

Finally, there is a good chance that this project was financed by Unilever Bangladesh Ltd. The private sector oftentimes has a less-public rationale for participating in public-private partnerships. Unilever is a main global producer of consumer goods, and focuses on the market segments where the purchasing power is. In Bangladesh this means the urban middle classs and upper classes. And so it makes perfect sense that Unilever in this project prefers to target exactly this market segment. On top of it all, Uilever got a niftly plaque with the company name on, together with the name of the CEO. The other two persons mentioned above also got their names on the plaque. It's not quite a statue, but it is certainly a fixture what will honor these three men in perpetuity.


Notes
(1) There is little detailed knowledge about this project, and so I have tried to make some seemingly inferences. If I am mistaken I would appreciate learning about it, in order that I can update this story.
(2) Image credit: see Linkedin in Sources.
(3) Permanent link: https://devblog.no/en/article/bangladesh-ppp-and-underlying-priorities-case
(4) This article was published on 8 March 2020. It was updated on 16 March 2020.

Sources
BRAC. nd. (no heading). URL: http://www.brac.net/latest-news/item/1266-brac-and-unilever-launch-disabled-friendly-modern-wash-centre-in-khulna (accessed 10 March 2020).
LinkedIn. "We just initiated a public toilet. Small yet unique WASH solution for Khulna". URL: https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6640170324065386496/ (accessed 12 March 2020).
Unilever Bangladesh Ltd., at: https://www.unilever.com.bd/ (accessed 15 March 2010).

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