How to change human behaviour for a cleaner Dhaka

Mim Participant

My name is Shafiatul Kubra Mim, but you can call me “Mim”. That’s easier.

At the moment I’m based in Dhaka, but I’m originally from the beautiful city of Rangpur. I am a graduate student in development studies at the Bangladesh University of Professionals (BUP). It’s one of the most prestigious academic institutions in Bangladesh.

Right now, we are learning about waste management while living in the capital and seeing all of the problems it is creating. Waste management is obviously the biggest climate challenge facing Dhaka.

Back in my hometown, we were not taught to throw away plastic packages or bottles into the dust bins. Our parents would just toss the trash here and there; they were never concerned.

The grown-up people don’t know what waste management is. There is no proper process in place which has led to many environmental problems.

“To have a sustainable city, you need a proper waste management system. We need to know the difference between what is degradable and what is not.”
Mims - Climathon Participant, Dhaka, Bangladesh

If you have been to Dhaka city, you will understand just how polluted it is. Whenever it rains, we cannot even move in the roads because of the blockage of the drains. People are becoming more aware of the problem, but we are still very behind.

To have a sustainable city, you need a proper waste management system. We need to know the difference between what is degradable and what is not. We must also minimise the amount of waste we consume in order to make our environment cleaner and more hygienic.

Growing up in a situation where I never learned how to manage waste and now seeing the gap in education, I understand that we are still doing the same thing out of habit. It’s a human behaviour. It takes months and years to change a behavior; we cannot do it within a day or night.

Our Climathon challenge was to find solutions for changing human behaviour towards a clean Dhaka. For myself and my two classmates, it was all very new to us because we had never participated in a hackathon before. We couldn’t believe that it could last for 24 hours!

I had the chance to meet a lot of people from different backgrounds and universities, people working in climate change. It was a very inclusive atmosphere—everyone was so friendly! Undoubtedly, Climathon is a great platform for awareness. Even if you don’t have an idea, you will be inspired.

We came up with an idea to focus on children because they are our future. We decided to create a cartoon superhero for the next generation as a social tool to explain environmental pollution and encourage proper waste management. This animated female character will teach the kids about sustainable livelihoods so that they can take the lead in the 21st-century.

We had mentors from various notable institutions, such as Dr. Saleemul Huq, Senior Fellow at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), and Mr. Khurshid Alam, Assistant Country Head of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

They presented sessions that connected climate change with city management and also human health and business development. I gained a lot of knowledge on the local policies taking place in my country and how we are dealing with the crisis.

Then there were “energizing sessions” like Zumba dancing or martial arts that kept our minds awake throughout the night. Some sessions were more relaxing and focused on the body, mind and purity. By the next morning, we were completely drained and half-dead, but the event was so interesting that we forgot about all those other things.

It was especially memorable because my team won the trophy. The mayor of Dhaka North, Mr. Atiqul Islam, was present at the closing ceremony and he awarded us with a handsome amount of prize money. As the winning team, we were also offered the incubation facilities at Brac University’s Centre for Entrepreneurship Development (CED).

Overall, it was amazing, enjoyable, tiring...the whole package! I would recommend Climathon to everyone. You can develop your soft skills—like public speaking, networking, collaboration—all within a very short time frame. It’s a huge journey and a huge experience.

I told the Gen Lab organisers, “Why don't you arrange it every six months? Climathon is such an amazing platform; it should happen more often!”

Thanks to our global partners