Students in the Bangladesh capital Dhaka drew pictures portraying the difficulties they face on the way to school. Obstacles included uneven and garbage-strewn roads, speeding cars, fear of accidents and pools of water.The drawings were later exhibited in a local playground, and will be presented to city officials at a future meeting.
After this art competition, we continued to conduct our awareness campaigns and advocacy to the government. The government became interested in the issue and proposed to conduct a workshop with the relevant schools. During the workshop, the students proposed five categories of streets: 1) streets for both pedestrians and vehicles, 2) streets where motorized vehicles will be controlled as per time, especially during school time; 3) one-way streets, 4) streets for walking and cycling and 5) pedestrian-only zones. The result of this work is that these proposals were included in the draft detailed area plan (DAP) of Dhaka for all the neighborhood streets, which is scheduled to be completed by December 2021.
In addition, the DAP focuses on the importance of building adequate quality schools in all communities, which will encourage children to walk to school. Guardians in Dhaka tend to send their children to schools they consider better quality, which often requires travel to other parts of the city. This trend increases the necessity of trip conducted by motorized vehicle, especially private cars.
Currently, we are working with three schools to build their capacity to advocate to ensure active and safe route to school to reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) with financial support from AstraZeneca’s Young Health Programme. Under these activities, we are conducting baseline and end-line surveys, workshops, community meetings, and are supporting the students to organize awareness campaigns as part of their advocacy efforts. We have conducted 2 workshops and trained 100 students and they have conducted 4 awareness campaigns. These campaigns received 28 instances of media coverage and helped us to reach the community at large with our messages.