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H&M Conscious Foundation: building better lives in Bangladesh

H&M employees Sissi Kaupinnen and Katja Linnaranta share their experiences of their recent trip to Bangladesh, where they saw the impact donations from the H&M Conscious Foundation have had on some of the country’s poorest communities.

News

2 Apr 2015

“My first impression of Dhaka was the noise and the traffic,” Katja, 36, tells us.

She works in the H&M store in Varkaus, Finland, and travelled to Bangladesh in November with her colleague Sissi, 25, to see how donations from the H&M Conscious Foundation have been changing people’s lives.

“I couldn't have imagined beforehand how bad the water and sanitation issues would be.”

Sissi agrees. “I found it really shocking,” she says. “The lack of safe water and toilets is making people really sick in Dhaka. The city has such a big population but so few toilets.”

Starting a chain reaction

Thanks to the support of H&M customers, the H&M Conscious Foundation has donated an incredible £2.8 million to our work in Bangladesh through the H&M Holiday Campaign.

Some of that money has already been spent in Mohakhali Market, providing new public toilets and access to clean drinking water – and the idea is catching on.

Sissi and Katja at a newly renovated toilet in Dhaka, Bangladesh
Katja, left, and Sissi, right, at the newly renovated toilets in Mohakhali Market.
Photo: WaterAid/GMB/Akash Panos

“The difference between the old public toilet and the renovated one is amazing,” Sissi says. “Now the toilets are clean, they’re safe, and there are facilities just for women - with locks - so everyone can go to the toilet safely.

“Since WaterAid started the work, the Bangladeshi government has also started to renovate toilets; the chain reaction is providing good things for local people.”

A safer environment for girls and women

Ensuring girls and women have a safe, secure place to go to the toilet is a key part of our work in Bangladesh – and the impact on women like Shathi, who lives in Sathtola slum, has been obvious.

“Shathi and I are the same age but our lives are so different,” Sissi says. “She was really thankful for the toilets and I could see that her life was safer because of them. It’s really easy for her to use them on her way to work.”

Also benefitting from the support of the H&M Conscious Foundation are the girls at the local community school in Shakhipur. Access to clean, safe toilets means they can now attend classes during their period – something that wasn't always possible before.

Sissi and Katja with Shathi.
Shathi meets Sissi and Katja.
Photo: WaterAid/GMB/Akash Panos

Making people happier every day

“I’ll always remember the school in Shakhipur, and visiting Sathtola slum was an unforgettable experience,” says Katja.

“I'm glad I've seen the work of the WaterAid team and how they make people happier every day by providing safe water and clean toilets. WaterAid and the H&M Conscious Foundation are doing really important work in Bangladesh.”

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