Coastal women remain unsung
Although Bangladesh has made remarkable progress in women's political empowerment, a recent study conducted on the female members of the fisheries communities found that women members of coastal fishery families are still lagging far behind in terms of empowerment.
They suffer from socio-economic inequalities — 65 percent of them are victims of some form of violence, while 31 percent do not have an opinion on the purchase of family property, the study found.
Fifty-six percent of women members do not have an opinion on the general expenditure of the family, it revealed.
It also found that only two percent of women members of these households have directly contacted the Union Parishad concerned for any special need. Eighty-two percent of women have never participated in any arbitration or any other decision-making process of society.
Jahirul Islam, assistant director of COAST Trust yesterday presented these findings at a press conference titled 'Women's contribution to the coastal fisheries sector needs to be recognised.' The press conference took place at Dhaka Reporters' Unity auditorium.
The study was conducted among 1,200 families that depend on fisheries for a livelihood in six unions of four upazilas of three coastal districts—Cox's Bazar, Bhola, and Bagerhat.
According to Jahirul, all women workers involved in fish processing are getting 25 percent fewer wages than male workers.
Mustafa Kamal Akand, director of COAST Trust said the contribution of women in this sector is not yet recognised, as their activities are not considered in exchange for money.
When coastal fishermen go to sea for fishing, women of the households take care of the whole family for many consecutive days, he said.
President of Bangladesh Krishak Federation Badrul Alam said that 10-12 percent women are directly and indirectly involved in the fisheries sector, but there is no separate information on their contribution. Initiatives are needed in this regard, he said.
Garments workers leader Saleha Islam Shantona said that although there is no discrimination between men and women in the labour law, women fishers are victims of clear discrimination. She pointed out the necessity of strict laws.
COAST Trust Deputy Executive Director Sanat K Bhowmik moderated the event, and he said, "Bangladesh is the third largest fish producer in the world. If women's participation is recognised, it will be easier for us to sustain [the industry]."
Several recommendations were made at the press conference, such as formulating special policies to identify the contribution of women in the fisheries sector, involving women members of fishing families in economic activities, ensuring women's participation in various fisheries programmes, and implementing labour policies for fishers.