International Women’s Day (IWD) 2022 is being observed today all over the world with the theme “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow”. It is beyond every speculation that ignoring the contributions of women, development, success, and achievements at the personal, family, social, and state level is just impossible.
United Nations recognised the IWD officially in 1975. But its origin began earlier in 1908 when a women’s rights march in New York City witnessed 15,000 people advocating for better pay and women’s right to vote. IWD was then commemorated in the United States on 28 February 1909, with countries like Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland joining the occasion in 1911. Clara Zetkin, a German Marxist theorist, communist activist, and advocate for women's rights, proposed the event to be taken globally at the International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen in 1910. Since then, IWD has been marked on March 8 every year globally. In Bangladesh also, IWD has been celebrated with government initiatives participated by all relevant stakeholders, including women rights activists, NGO workers, political leaders, labour organisations, development partners, UN agencies, educational institutions, etc.
Like many other sectors, women of Bangladesh have been the key contributor to drowning prevention, starting from the rural communities to the highest global forum - the United Nations. Bangladesh has been a pioneer in testing the community-based drowning prevention interventions recognised at the global forums where women’s contributions are critically important. Women from rural Bangladesh have been found instrumental in developing and testing the community-based institutional supervision mechanism that is effective to reduce the rate of drowning of under-5 children by 80%. Teaching swimming skills, other intervention of drowning prevention scientifically tested as 90% effective to reduce drowning deaths, have functional correlation with the contribution of women. It has been evident that female Community Swimming Instructors (CSI) have greater acceptance among the rural communities and they are found sincere in delivering the swimming teaching and rescue skills.
To scale up the tested interventions of drowning prevention, Bangladesh has been supported by a number of women working in multiple international development agencies whose names should be mentioned as I have attempted to recognise the women’s contribution to the drowning epidemic tackling in the country. Hundreds of rural women are engaged in implementing drowning prevention interventions but unfortunately, all names could not be mentioned.
Most importantly, one must salute our Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina who is also leading the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs (MoWCA), and Fazilatun Nessa Indira MP Honourable State Minister, MoWCA for setting the unprecedented example of allocating around 300 million taka to scale up the two vital drowning prevention interventions within the first year of adoption of the UN resolution on global drowning prevention. Under the leadership of a woman, Bangladesh had been in the driving seat of getting the UN resolution on global drowning prevention adopted, and under the leadership of our Honourable Prime Minister Bangladesh again should be considered as the leading country of taking actions responding to the UN resolution.
The writer is a development worker