“To pee or not to pee” – Is social behavioral change what we need?

People urinating in public place, Dhaka. | Photo: Asad

Last Monday, Last Monday, the sidewalk was discovered shut off by a rope with a some shoes swinging from it on the corner of a building in Dhanmondi, Dhaka. A young guy looks around cautiously. He faced the wall, unzipped and finished urinating on the wall. Later he was questioned why he had done that. “I did not want to but the pressure was high. I could not resist myself,” he said while being embarrassed and refused to divulge his identity. Like him, many men in Dhaka urinates in public and pollutes the streets and walls of the city. The act of public urination relates to self-hygiene, social disturbance, environmental pollution, and over-all dignity of people. This is high time government implores efficient and permanent solution to this public nuisance.

Extent of the issue

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), illnesses such as cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid, and polio are spread by poor sanitation (WHO, 2022). In addition to pre-existing lack of basic life services,  Dhaka is plagued by a lack of safe water, sewage treatment, and safe solid waste disposal, which paints a picture of an unsanitary metropolitan center that poses a public health danger to its millions of people. Situation like this coupled with long practice of open defecation and urination, has normalized the behavior within the society. Although over the period of time, Bangladesh has succeeded to become a defecation free country (according to World Bank 2020 report) , cities specially the capital city still suffers from public urination that leads to social and environmental challenges among other issues.


Health consequence

Public urination leads to unhealthy environment for all.  Insanitary public urination can be reason of intestinal worms, spread of antimicrobial resistance etc. issues. It’s a public health issue because people walk on soiled and stinky sidewalks from mature people peeing on them, then track that filth into their homes and onto their families.

environment consequence

Public urination creates the area around it inhabitable. The waste gets mixed with the environment without any processing.  Research by Aberg and others proves that urination can carry harmful toxins from body and mixing with environment can cause imbalance or hazard in the ecosystem.

legal consequence

Dhaka Tribune published that Bangladesh govt. has imposed law against public urination. According to section 92 of the local government (city corporation) act 2009, public urination is an offense and can be fined BDT 5,000 as per the law.


The reasons behind the continuation of public urination have been well explored by social science researchers and that puts our focus to the normalization of the act itself. According to researcher Shovon, the act of normalization happens through the following process – 

SBCC – a new way forward?

Social Behavioral Change Communication popularly known as SBCC Changes has been used to try to modify a population’s behavior by influencing its education, behaviours, and social conventions or cultural practices by using a single or a number of communication approaches.. Public urination is not only a problem for Bangladesh, people from different parts of the world had been suffering from it.

University of Buffalo, USA faces public urination issue

Many countries among them has explored the use of SBCC in reducing, if not eliminating the problem completely.

How can Bangladesh fight it?

According to WaterAid, Bangladesh is now a ODF (Open Defecation Free) country ( 34% in 1990 to 0% in 2017). It was possible with major involvement from multiple fronts like political intent, activities by development partners and active participation of local government organizations and communities. But public urination continued.  In 2014 city authorities partnered with Water Aid to setup first “Good Public Toilet” (GPT) that contained sink, mirror, waste bin etc. necessary items. 53 GPTs were constructed by 2019 and by 2021 63 modern public toilets were made.

Bangladesh and Nepal teams share their knowledge on sanitation, Nepal ; April 2022 | Photo: Dhaka Tribune

Undoubtedly, many number of public toilets needs to increase exponentially, and these initiatives show that local and international bodies are collaborating to resolve the key issues of infrastructure. But implementation of SBCC is also required to change the mindset of people so that provided option, they wouldn’t urinate in public. 

In 2015, an innovative approach, a campaign called “Language matters”, was initiated to raise awareness specifically against the public urination practice. 

Recently, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Bangladesh (MHFW) in association with Dhaka City Corporations has partnered up with WaterAid, Bangladesh to apply a multifaceted SBCC approach. Learning from previous actions and studying social science research and practices, they plan to implement a pilot communication campaign in Dhaka city. This communication campaign aims to raise awareness against public urination among the Dhaka city dwellers. This will introduce mirrors on the walls in different parts of Dhaka city where public urination happens frequently. The intention is to grab attention of the city-dwellers specially the personnel engaging in open urination to rethink about their actions before they commit. In addition, the awareness campaign has a digital component to engage people in social media as well. Shuddhi foundation, a renowned non-profit organization with experience in SBCC campaigns will implement the campaign. They call it project “Shomman Shamlaan” / প্রজেক্ট“সম্মানসামলান”. 

“Individual awareness is necessary to stop urination in public places.”

Says Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) Executive Magistrate Kabir Mahmood who considers public urination as a “social disease”

Halida Hanum, Director of Shuddhi Foundation and ex-dean of John Hopkins University School of Medicine, believes that with proper support from the local and international partners, this project will reach the minds of people and motivate them to change their unhealthy sanitation practices. She also says that once the pilot project is successful in Dhaka, the whole country can be part of the large scale project and be ahead in fulfilling more of our Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 3 & 6). 

With one of the highest population densities in the world, Bangladesh suffers from numerous natural, social, medical, financial problems among others. Changing mindset about mere public urination won’t resolve all of our issues, but if successful this can definitely lead the people to a better and brighter society for all. It won’t be overstatement to say about the project that “One small step for Dhakaites, one giant leap for the nation.” 

[AUTHORS NOTE / DISCLAIMER : This blog post is a part of an academic assignment ONLY and NOT to be considered for academic or journalistic reference. It contains demo information that are relevant for the assignment only and may not reflect the “truth”. ]

Salud! Comrade Pablo Neruda!

It’s been 40 years since legend Don Pablo (Pablo Neruda) took his last breath. But still his poems have been inspiring boys & men to be dipped in love, girl & women to be felt appreciated and desired.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines...” have been a silent partner in my saddest times. Or when I read from his sonnet XVII,

…where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

it’s like a feeling that only he can transcend into words. Probably that’s the reason artist/poet like him comes few in every century or so. His writings have been iconic throughout last century and may it last till the end of centuries to come. Salud! Comrade!

From Pablo Neruda’s Sonnet XXVII:

“Naked, you are simple as one of your hands, 
Smooth, earthy, small, transparent, round: 
You have moonlines, applepathways: 
Naked, you are slender as a naked grain of wheat.

Naked, you are blue as the night in Cuba; 
You have vines and stars in your hair; 
Naked, you are spacious and yellow 
As summer in a golden church.

Naked, you are tiny as one of your nails, 
Curved, subtle, rosy, till the day is born 
And you withdraw to the underground world,

as if down a long tunnel of clothing and of chores:
Your clear light dims, gets dressed, drops its leaves,
And becomes a naked hand again. “

Here is a clip from the movie Il Postino (The Postman) which has a part of his sonnet xxvii (written above):

A tribute to Masahisa Fukase

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I was stunned…

I was overwhelmed.

They crushed my soul ….

How can some “mere” set of pixels, combination of gray dots do such a thing! I had no idea! I just kept looking at the photographs. They more I looked, the more I saw and the emptier I felt. Fukase’s “ravens” seem to have that sublime yet strong reaction.

Japanese photographer Masahisa Fukase‘s (1934-2012) book “Solitude of Ravens” is a collection of 62 black and white photographs. He started taking these photographs after he got divorced from a 12 year marriage.He was coming back to his birthplace, Hokkaido, to deal with his psychological situation. But Fukase found a subject that reflected his darkening vision, and he pursued it with obsessive relentlessness. He started photographing ravens from running trains, buses, at different stops etc.In Japanese mythology, ravens are disruptive presences and harbingers of dark and dangerous times His photographs of ravens were published as a book for the first time in 1986, photos edited by Akira Hasegawa. He says, “masahisa fukase’s work can be deemed to have reached its supreme height; it can also be said to have fallen to its greatest depth. the solitude revealed in this collection of images is sometimes so painful that we want to avert our eyes from it.” According to British Journal of Photography, his book remains the best photo-book in last 25 years (1986-2011).

He got remarried to someone else and divorced again. But he was still in ruins from his lost love. During one evening of 1992 he was too drunk, he fell down and had severe brain injury. He had been in coma for last 20 years until June 9,2012 when his body finally gave up.

During these days, Yoko, his lost love, looked after him. She says,“He remains part of my identity; that’s why I still visit him.”

Some good reads about Fukase:

claxtonprojects | reflets de lumiere | avesnoir

Dr. Basma Moussa : The Wonder Woman

Portrait of Dr. Basma Moussa- Baha'i Activist

“Hi, I have heard about your contribution toward Baha’i community in Egypt and I am doing a photographic project on that. Can we meet and talk about it?” , I asked. She made some adjustments with schedule and said, “Do you know the Cairo Opera House?”. “Well, I don’t know exactly but I do have google map in my phone and I can surely find it.”, I replied.

 That’s how our first conversation started and with time we became wonderful friends. She, with her strong yet charming personality, with her hospitality and her vast knowledge about everything(!) earned my respect in no time. But what amazed me most, was her dedication to her society, nation and mankind as a whole! I couldn’t help asking her once, “Is your day made of 48 hours?”

I won’t be exaggerating, if I say, she made my first attempt with the project and stay at Egypt worthwhile. I have been quite busy after coming back from Egypt and it’s high time to pay respect to the one that I owe most. This post is to convey that I feel honoured to meet her. And I hope to visit her again, soon. And, of course, I am eagerly waiting to see her mother & daughter as well. These three are three wonders from three generations.

This is a link to her blog where she has been writing for last 6 years. It’s practically an Encyclopaedia- not only about Baha’i faith but also about life and humanity as a whole.

All my Baha’i friends in Egypt whether senior or junior were the people who were the reason behind me going on with this project and having a decent start. Mr. Abdel Baset & his family, Mr. Bahaa Abdel Rahman, my friend Bahaa & his family, Osama & his family- they accepted me as their dear ones and it’s been a great honor to be with you all. Alaa Sami – buddy will see you soon too and of course Shady Samir for being a wonderful help. Ciao.

Misr Memoir: Cairo Streets

First few days in Cairo were hectic. New country, unknown language, everything in exaggerated size ( i mean food of course) and what not! But as the days passed, we learnt what to do and what not to do. This is during that transition phase while we tried to get used to the streets of Cairo. This is the first outcome of the workshop or I may say “the warm up”s edited by our workshop instructors Philip Blenkinsop & Max Pam.

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