AN inside view of the public toilet. —Photo by the writer
AN inside view of the public toilet. —Photo by the writer

KARACHI: In the heart of Lea Market, near the Hub Chowki bus stop, there is now a cargo container having four clean toilets, washbasins, soap and sanitiser dispensers, as well as diaper-changing tables and ramps offering easy access to special citizens, at its entrance.

The toilets, two for women and two for men, are a part of Pakistan’s first privately-managed public project ‘Saaf Bath’, launched by the Salman Sufi Foundation in collaboration with the government of Sindh on Sunday.

A brainchild of Salman Sufi, the project looks to initiate an inclusive health and sanitation campaign across the country.

Saaf Bath is designed to benefit pedestrians, especially women, and to cater to people of all genders and different abilities.

“The toilet containers will be maintained on a daily basis though the foundation’s coordinating officers and an independent waste management and sanitation providing agency,” Mr Sufi told Dawn, adding that there was availability of boring water in the Lea Market area.

He said that for the project, his foundation was partnering with several corporate companies including Reckitt Benckiser, that had donated the first two sets of toilets for Lea Market and Jheel Park, and Sufi Group, which were in charge of installing public toilets in the urban, semi-urban and rural areas of the country.

“To this end, the second phase of the initiative will be implemented in Punjab,” he added.

He said that women were particularly affected by a lack of public toilets. “There are also toilets and washing up facilities in mosques for men but womenfolk don’t have that,” he pointed out.

Junaid Jamil, a sanitation worker brought in to oversee the cleaning of the toilets, said that he would have a toilet, used once, cleaned before the next person would used it.

He also said that Rs20 would be charged for using the facility.

Deputy Commissioner Irshad Sohail, who had suggested to Sufi to initiate the project from Lea Market, said that he wanted the facility near bus stops where there are lots of people.

“We had thought of Seaview beach and the Abdullah Shah Ghazi shrine as well as other places for installing the toilets, but then we thought this place would be best,” he said.

Sindh Minister for Women Development Shehla Raza shared that it had often happened with her as well that she was out shopping with her mother and they have had to rush back home to use the bathroom. “Access to clean toilets prevents possible spread of diseases. Keeping good hygiene in pandemic times is also needed,” she said while appreciating the initiative.

Showbiz personality and brand ambassador for Saaf Bath, Saba Hameed, asked people of the area to take care of and take ownership of the project. She also appealed to men to respect women and help them in whatever way that they could in daily life. “Cleanliness is Godliness,” she concluded.

Akbar Ali Shah, country manager for Harpic and Reckitt & Benckiser, also spoke.

Published in Dawn, September 28th, 2020