Umme Hanima standing in front of the newly launched Women’s Corner in Bhairab Municipality

Umme Hanima, a mother of a 7-month-old baby, is a resident of Dakshin Para, Gouripur under Bhairab municipality. She lives with her in-laws in an 8-member family. Hanima’s husband is an expatriate worker in Qatar making her a key caretaker of the family due to her husband’s absence.

As my husband lives abroad, I have to take up his responsibilities to avail routine municipal services,” says Hanima. “But availing these services takes a lot of time due to long queues of people – both men and women. Six months ago, I went to the municipality for my newborn’s birth certificate. I had to stand in the long queue in the scorching heat with my six-month-old baby for almost three hours. Neither there was any place to sit, nor any space to breastfeed my baby. We both got exhausted and sick because of the extreme heat,” she added.

This was the typical scenario in the municipality of Bhairab, where some 600-700 people come every day to avail at least 14 citizen-centric routine services. “Being the business hub of Dhaka division, Bhairab municipality caters to more people than other municipalities on a daily basis. The municipality services attract a significant daily influx of women, with 200-300 visiting the main municipal building and 400-500 attending the annex Matri Shodon facility. The diverse demographic of women service takers includes the elderly, those with children, and breastfeeding mothers,” said Md. Faruk, the Pouro Nirbahi Officer (PNO) of Bhairab municipality.

While talking about the challenges these women face, the PNO said, “They have raised concerns over inadequate waiting arrangements and the absence of dedicated nursing and sanitation facilities, which hinder their accessibility towards availing these services. The Women Development Committee of the municipality came to me with the idea of setting up a designated spot for the women to ensure improved service delivery.”

Struggling over how to turn this idea into reality, PNO Faruk then contacted PRABRDDHI seeking assistance with an aim to enhance service quality for the women recipients. With a collaborative commitment to fostering positive economic change and gender empowerment, PRABRIDHHI provided technical and financial assistance to the municipality to set up two dedicated ‘Women Corners’ in the municipality premises and the Matri Shodon facility. The intervention will unfold in multiple phases. In Phase 1, the focus is on improving women’s accessibility to municipal services through gender mainstreaming strategies. Phase 2 aims to enhance the perception of gender-responsive service provision, empowering women through the active role of the women development committee. Phase 3 seeks to showcase the municipality as a gender-responsive service model, with potential scale-up or replication in other municipalities.

After the launching of the Women’s Corner, many women like Hanima comes to the municipality with happy faces. “I have been coming to the women’s corner at the Matri Shodon for my baby’s vaccination. Now we have comfortable seating space with electricity, designated toilet, and breastfeeding corner both at the municipality premises and inside the Matri Shodon. Availing services has become much easier for us now,” said a content Hanima.

Recognizing the commitment to improving accessibility and ensuring a positive user experience for women in the municipality, Mayor Iftekhar Hossain Beno highlighted the intervention’s potential to enhance service efficiency and empower women. “The partnership with PRABRIDDHI is seen as a vital step in advancing Local Economic Development and fostering inclusivity within the community,” he added.

The Women’s Corner symbolizes empowerment and transformative change, highlighting the potential for positive impacts for sustainable systemic change in Bhairab and beyond.

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