Participation of indigenous women in the customary institutions for Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) is important to ensure their empowerment, said speakers at a discussion yesterday.
They also said the participation will be ensured if the customary laws are upgraded and capacity of the customary officials is strengthened, adding that circle chiefs and the CHT ministry should have a proper plan under National Women's Development Policy (NWDP) -2011 and CHT Peace Accord.
A total of six organisations including Bangladesh Nari Progati Sangha (BNPS), Kapaeeng Foundation and Bangladesh Indigenous Women's Network organised the discussion at CIRDAP auditorium in Dhaka.
According to the organisers, there is a system involving karbari (community leader), headman and circle chief who are empowered to resolve social or family dispute as per the CHT Regulation 1900.
Karbari deals with problems in the village, Headman with problems in the mouja, and Circle Chief with overall problem of the community. However, participation of women in the posts is not satisfactory, they said.
Keynote speaker Advocate Susmita Chakma said, “Most positions in the customary institutions are occupied by men.”
Giving an example she said a total of 415 women are holding the position of karbari out of 4,722 in Chakma, Bomang and Mong circles.
Nirupa Dewan, former member of the National Human Rights Commission, emphasised the need for training women who are to be in the customary positions so that they can better understand the customary laws and lead their communities with dexterity.
Prof Ainoon Nahar of Jahangirnagar University said quantity is not enough but the enhancement of women's capabilities is necessary.
Shoma Datta, deputy programme manager of Manusher Jonno Foundation, called upon the youths to come forward in helping pave the way for women's inclusion in the customary laws.
Shedding light on customary laws of indigenous people living in the plain lands, Shohel Hajang, a representative of Kapaeeng Foundation, said the laws are in need of restoration.
Barrister Debashish Roy, Chakma circle chief, agreed with the speakers that women's participation in the customary legal process is necessary as it will ensure their empowerment.
Rokeya Kabir, executive director of BNPS, and Roma Rani Roy, additional secretary (admin), Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs, also spoke at the programme.