International Women’s Day on March 8 promoted the message that a gender-balanced world is better for everyone. But, every day is women’s day as women contribute every day in many different ways. Each and every woman is giving to society every day. A woman is the person who brings life to another human being and it is the toughest job for mankind for which Allah chose them. Hence, we may say that none is stronger than a woman.
Earlier, there was a popular consensus that women were psychologically weaker than men. At present, the general notion has changed a lot. It is my firm belief that girls or women of Bangladesh are much more spirited and courageous than those of other countries. In 1971, thirty lakh people laid down their lives for the cause of independence. The number of male population was higher. At a family when its major earning member, usually a male one, dies, then the entire family gets ruined. During Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971, innumerable women discovered that they had no alternative to protect their children. A mother remains always ready to keep alive her children by dint of her last drop of blood. So, after the independence of the country countless women came out of their houses after losing their sons or husbands. In a bid to protect their children they had to struggle hard. I know this because my mother Rizia Ahmed was such a woman who lost her eldest son Captain R A M Khairul Bashar ASC (Captain Bashar), former officer commanding of the then Station Supply Depot (SSD), Chattogram, during Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. I know many more women who reared their children facing all kinds of odds. History tells that Bangladeshi women usually rise to occasion whenever situation arrives. I cherish this view that women in our country are much more spirited and courageous in comparison to women of other countries. It is a fact.
In Bangladesh, now we have women in power. When women have a voice, everything changes. Gender equality is in the interest of both men and women. When women win, men win, too. Let me cite some examples to clarify the fact that women in our country are even strengthening the political arena. Sheikh Hasina, daughter of the country’s founding father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, is the incumbent prime minister. This is her fourth term as the premier of Bangladesh. Ruling Awami League’s Shirin Sharmin Choudhury has been elected as the Speaker of the current parliament. She has been elected as the Speaker of parliament for the second time. Khaleda Zia, the widow of former president Ziaur Rahman, was prime minister for three terms since 1991. When she became prime minister for the first term in 1991, she was the first female prime minister in a Muslim-majority country in the world. She was the leader of the opposition in parliament twice. Bangladesh has witnessed another significant rise of another female leader in local politics. In a small city like Narayanganj, Selina Hayat Ivy was elected mayor of the city corporation twice. Once she defeated the AL-backed candidate in the battle of ballots in 2011 and Khaleda-led BNP’s mayoral candidate in December 2016. Her honesty and clean image have put her in limelight in national politics too. Though she belongs to the AL camp, people irrespective of party affiliation laud her leadership. The women leaders’ successes are clear depictions of just how far we have come since the march for women’s rights began. The country is proud of its women leaders. Here, women have proved that they can achieve success like their male counterparts.
Women are playing an important role in decision making while they are working to utilise the opportunities there. Bangladesh’s women are now in very high position of all sectors like administration, judiciary, education, administration, as well as in armed forces and in law-enforcement agencies. They are now at an equal level to their male counterparts in fields such as education, sport and art. Women of Bangladesh have already proved themselves, which women of many developed countries have failed to do. Bangladeshi women have showed they can. But, they are not here because it was handed to them – they had to fight all the way, and they are still fighting. Still, there is a long way to go.Well, in addition to measures by the national government and other stakeholders at the macro level, male population can contribute a lot at the micro level for furthering women’s participation in decision-making matters. They, in their individual capacities, can encourage women to take vital decisions in household activities. This can be a good beginning which, at a later stage, can become mass social movement with intervention of interested individuals or organizations. Moreover men can help lead the charge with women in enacting legislation that promotes women’s rights, repealing laws and policies that discriminate against women and limit opportunities. They can also support the advancement of women in decision making bodies by advocating for temporary special measures.
As fathers also, men can help re-shape gender identities by emulating shared decision-making and leadership in the home, and speaking to their children about the importance of women. Fathers also play a fundamental role in cultivating a culture of equality by sharing the duty of care-giving for children and by setting equal standards for boys and girls within the family, thus opening opportunities for women and girls to participate in public life.
However, we need to listen to voices of women around the world and learn amazing things from them. The reality is lot harder. The World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report 2019 reveals that it will take 108 years to achieve overall gender parity and 202 years to achieve full equality in the workplace worldwide. These figures point out some important observations as far as women are concerned. For example- women are still discriminated and subject to different kinds of harassments in their workplaces. It is often reported that female employees are paid less than their male counterparts in many offices. This is really unacceptable.
In the meantime it makes me so embarrassed to mention that even in this century women are being molested in our society in many ways. They are being harassed, raped and tortured (sometimes by their very own relatives and family members). And sometimes the perpetrators even manage to escape the due punishment taking advantage of the loopholes in the system.
So despite the progress being made, however, we simply cannot sit idly. More work needs to be done to address different forms of inequality and harassment faced by women in our country. This is especially important.
(The writer is a columnist. E-mail: [email protected])