Unilever Bangladesh Limited (UBL) and UN Women Bangladesh jointly organized the "Balance for Better: Step It Up for Gender Equality" youth forum at the North South University campus on Wednesday, 27th February, 2019. The event, which is a part of Unilever and UN Women’s 10-day International Women’s Day engagement programme, consisted of 5 keynote speeches by successful women from various sectors, and was followed by a brainstorming session by students from various universities, along with representatives from UBL and UN Women.
The speakers included Bushra Behrose, Unilever’s first female C-shift Production Manager; Ashreen Mridha, Brand Manager of Unilever’s Surf Excel and a member of Bangladesh’s National Women’s Basketball Team; Zaiba Tahyya, international award-winning Founder and CEO of Female Empowerment Movement (FEM); Zarin Zeba Khan, Programme Analyst on Women’s Economic Empowerment at UN Women Bangladesh; and Zefroon Afsary, Monitoring and Reporting Officer for UN Women’s Humanitarian Response project.
“Women are [usually] discouraged from working in night shifts because it is considered unsafe,” said Behrose, Unilever’s first female Night Shift Manager, “but Unilever provides a culture and environment which allows women to thrive.” She went on to add that the female managers at Unilever oversee around 200 employees themselves.
Ashreen Mridha, brand manager at Unilever and former captain of Bangladesh’s national women’s basketball team cited the, “lack of infrastructure…lack of support in the form of funds, sponsoring organisations etc, and lack of role models,” in both corporate and athletic landscapes as barriers preventing women from pursuing their passions.Urging women not to submit to an outdated social mindset, and setbacks, Zarin Zeba Khan from UN Women said, “We don’t know who we are and what capacities we have unless we test ourselves.”
In the latter half of the event, participants of the Youth Forum identified barriers preventing women from entering or remaining in the workforce after graduation and suggested possible solutions. An outdated social mindset and family pressure, lack of female role models, restricted mobility due to safety concerns, and lack of appropriate amenities during field visits were some of the issues raised during the forum.
The event provided UBL and UN Women Bangladesh with valuable insights into what steps need to be taken moving forward to be able to create equal opportunities for women, and empower working women in Bangladesh.