Written by: Sabrina Mustabin Jaigirdar, Zahidul Quayyum
In a notable recognition of the unwavering dedication of young individuals and community-led endeavours aimed at promoting sustainable waste management practices and addressing waterlogging challenges in Dhaka City, the “Pathways to Equitable Healthy Cities: Public Engagement on Waste Management and Waterlogging in Dhaka City – Certificate Giving Ceremony” was held on September 20, 2023.
BRAC James P Grant School of Public Health, BRAC University in collaboration with Imperial College London, King’s College London and Harvard University conducted a study titled, “Pathways to Equitable Healthy Cities: Public Engagement on Waste Management and Waterlogging in Dhaka City.” The study raised awareness among school students and neighbouring community members about the importance of proper waste management through co-producing knowledge and co-designing materials to actively engage them in activities that promote positive waste management systems. As a crucial issue in areas vulnerable to waterlogging, the campaign involved students (Class 6-10) and teachers from Mirpur and Badda, to address waste management challenges in these regions.
Amid challenges posed by environmental vulnerability, these young minds took it upon themselves to spearhead a movement for change. From organizing awareness drives to conducting clean-up campaigns, the diligent students worked to instil a sense of responsibility towards maintaining cleanliness within their educational institutions and the nearby communities. Our “waste management champions”  co-developed interventions, created awareness materials and acted by making posters, putting up signs, holding rallies, staging demonstrations, cleaning the surroundings, and filming social awareness campaigns. Students also surveyed local vendors and held question-answer sessions with the guardians of the students. They provided bins in markets, shops, and vendors near their schools, and held awareness sessions with juniors. Through these initiatives, nearly 1900 students and 600 community members were reached.
The Certificate Giving Ceremony was an embodiment of their dedication. The presence of principals and teachers from nine schools underscored the collaborative spirit driving this initiative. The event drew 261 students from nine different schools in Badda and Mirpur areas. These young individuals, alongside 31 dedicated teachers, demonstrated exceptional commitment and enthusiasm in embracing sustainable waste management techniques and practices.
The ceremony commenced with a warm welcome by Dr Zahidul Quayyum, Professor and Co-Director of the Centre of Excellence for Urban Equity and Health at BRAC JPGSPH, BRAC University. A video presentation showcased the student’s initiatives taken in addressing waste management and waterlogging challenges in Dhaka City, setting the tone for the day’s proceedings.
Throughout the event, the stage resonated with heartfelt remarks from students, principals, and esteemed guests, including Riaz Hossain Khan, Assistant Scientist, BRACJPGSPH, BRAC University and Md Ataur Rahman, Director, Centre for Professional Skills Development, BRACJPGSPH, BRAC University who graced the occasion as special guests. Md. Abdul Majid, District Education Officer of Dhaka, honoured the gathering as the chief guest. Their shared enthusiasm and encouragement underscored the importance of such initiatives in nurturing responsible citizens committed to building sustainable urban communities.
The pinnacle of the ceremony was the presentation of awards and certificates, wherein we recognized deserving students for their outstanding endeavours in advocating awareness and fostering cleanliness in their schools and communities. The sense of pride and accomplishment evident on the faces of these young leaders was profoundly inspiring, underscoring their unwavering commitment to effecting positive change in their surroundings.
All the students were given certificates for their active participation and awards were given too. The National Bangla High School in the Mirpur-2 area was awarded the Best School Award, lauding the institution’s remarkable feat in fostering the highest level of student engagement, sustained collaboration, and instigation of positive transformations within the school premises.
The Best Class Award was merited by Class-8 (Palash) of Chetona Model Academy School and College in Mirpur-6, recognizing the extraordinary commitment and heightened engagement demonstrated by its students within the school’s milieu. Additionally, Class-7 of Cherry Blossom International School and College in Mirpur-6 was also granted the Best Class Award for their remarkable consistency in student engagement and notable impact on the neighbouring communities.
Two Future Leader Awards were presented, honouring Lamiya Islam of Class 10 and Shantonu Biswas Choyon of Class 6 from National Bangla High School, Mirpur-2, for their outstanding performance and exemplary leadership exhibited throughout the school campaign.
As each student was called forth to receive their certificate and crest, the atmosphere buzzed with appreciation and admiration. Their faces were illuminated with joy and a sense of accomplishment, reflecting the positive transformation they had initiated within their schools and neighbourhoods. The event was not only a reward for their hard work but also an encouragement to continue making a difference. Beyond the certificates and crests, this ceremony symbolized a ripple effect of change. It highlighted the potential of youth-led initiatives in fostering community development and environmental consciousness.
As the day drew to a close, Dr. Zahidul Quayyum extended heartfelt gratitude to all attendees for their participation and commitment to this noble cause. The event, attended by a total of 307 participants, served as a platform to celebrate not just the accomplishments of these students but also as a catalyst for continued engagement and amplified efforts towards a cleaner and more responsible community. The seeds of change sown by these students are sure to blossom into a future where awareness, responsibility, and cleanliness thrive. The success of this ceremony serves as a beacon of hope, inspiring others to join hands in fostering positive change, one small step at a time.
 The students from the nine schools who participated in the TIDBITs sessions and the school campaign.