To achieve the safely managed sanitation target under Sustainable Development Goal 6, the Government of Bangladesh ha...
Full title: Towards a dignified life for all sanitation workers in Bangladesh
Location: Various urban centres in Bangladesh (Faridpur since 2014, expanding to Bagerhat, Barguna, Gazipur City, Kolaroa, Laksam, Magura, Meherpur, Rajbari and Satkhira in 2022).
Our role: Practical Action is collaborating with sanitary waste workers and the local authorities to transform the way faecal sludge is collected, processed and treated, and improve the health, safety and status of workers. We’re also working to change public attitudes towards those working in the toilet waste sector.
Participants: By 2022, we had reached 561,150 city residents. As the programme expands, we will work with 3,000 sanitation workers across 60 co-operatives, reaching 1.1 million people across 10 urban centres.
Project budget, Phase 1 & 2 (2014 – 2022): £2.75 million
Project budget, Phase 3 (2022 – 2024): £736,000
Aim: Cities Fit For People
Lead donor: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
People are recognising the importance of the work we do. My neighbours have started to respect me more; they see that I’m supporting my family through this work. Before, my work was very irregular. Now that I work here and am a member of the co-operative, I have a dependable income.
Aklima produces organic fertiliser from safely treated faecal sludge, which is then sold on to farmers.
While almost everyone in Bangladesh has access to a basic toilet, human waste isn’t always safely managed and can cause huge problems, especially for the workers who risk their health and dignity to clean it up.
Waste disposal systems managed by local authorities do not cater for poor, urban ‘slum’ dwellings. Instead, informal waste workers have to step up to carry out this vital service.
Waste workers often work in dangerous conditions where they have to empty the contents of pit latrines and septic tanks by hand, facing toxic substances without protective clothing. Their pay and job security are poor, and they are often excluded from society and discriminated against because of the work they do.
Because there is no established system for emptying waste and treating it safely, it’s often dumped in local rivers and nearby wastelands, causing serious health and environmental hazards.
We take a systems approach, working across sectors to facilitate bold collaborations between waste workers, communities, the private sector and local government. Our ‘Emptier to Entrepreneur’ model is transforming the sanitation sector.
Informal workers are supported to form co-operatives. By joining together in a formal business, workers are able to develop improved operating practices and obtain the licenses needed for the safe emptying, transport, and disposal of waste. Employment conditions are improved and workers get access to personal protective equipment. New, innovative technology is leased to the co-operatives from the municipality; waste workers swap emptying latrines by hand for ‘Vacutag’ suction technology, which is quicker, cleaner and much safer.
The waste is safely treated at a management plant, using ingenuity to create value. Faecal sludge is then combined with organic household waste collection to create organic ‘co-compost’ and compressed bio-gas. This not only generates a new income stream but also contributes to a lasting sanitation system that is fit for both people and the planet.
We have the special ‘gulper’ equipment, which means we can empty the pit from outside without having to get in and get dirty. […] There is less discrimination now. Householders see that we keep ourselves clean using soap and the protective clothing and they are happier to have us working on their property.
Nuider is a toilet-pit emptier who is benefiting from improved technology, co-operative membership and a better social status.
After successfully working with informal sanitation workers in Faridpur since 2014, we scaled up our Emptier to Entrepreneur model by working with co-operatives in five towns (Phase 2) and are now expanding this to a further ten towns (Phase 3) while also engaging with policymakers at a national level. Our expected outcomes in Phase 3 include:
- The creation of a National Platform of Waste and Sanitation Workers co-operatives.
- Co-operatives have easy access to the mechanical equipment for desludging services.
- Co-operatives have easy access to finance through a public-private partnership model for scaling up inclusive sanitation to a citywide level.
Safe handling and disposal of waste reduces the spread of communicable diseases.
We are bringing new innovations which empower women in terms of representation and new economic opportunities.
We work with informal workers to develop safe, affordable and reliable water and sanitation services in underserved communities.
Our ‘Emptier to Entrepreneur’ approach provide waste workers with a safe and dignified way to make a living.