Journey Towards Women's Empowerment
4th April 2014 is 44th birth anniversary of Bangladesh Mahila Parishad. Historically BMP was founded with a definite objective to establish women's human rights, democratic and equity based society and state on the basis of humanitarian principles. For the last 44 years this organization is working relentlessly in a multi-dimensional way with a right based approach, to promote and protect women's human rights in Bangladesh, to create broader space in the life of all walks of women and to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women. During its four and a half decade journey it has attained certain features which makes it different or special from many others. From its very inception BMP's main salient feature is –
* Non-communal secular, democratic, progressive humanitarian culture and principles.
* Its voluntarism and patriotism
* Relentless/non-stop quest and struggle for innovating the rights and process to adapt for promoting the existing subjugated position of women in the family, society and state.
* To empower women economically, politically, socially and culturally.
* To resist and eliminate all kinds of violence and discrimination which exist against women and girls in the family, society and state.
* Strengthening and deepening democracy and democratic culture in every sphere of life.
* Transparency and accountability in its organizational life.
BMP is now identified as a strong advocacy lobby agent for policy intervention and for pro-gender policy and programs and culture in the state.
As a women's organization it has been engaged in the effort of integrating general mass women in the mainstream political process and policy making process of all state institutions in all tiers.
During this period BMP's remarkable stands are organizing a conscious integrated, target bound law reform movement.
From 1972 to 2014, BMP played a role as voice raiser, as an opinion builder, as a drafter and implementer of all the laws which has been introduced by the successive governments related to women's human rights and gender equality, to establish equality between men and women in the case of marriage, divorce, guardianship and laws of inheritance.
BMP has proposed a forward looking, advance, modern, scientific alternative family laws named Uniform Family Code (UFC) which has been able to get support from national women's movement and also to draw the attentions of regional and global women's human rights movement and UNCSW and UNCEDAW committee.
From 1980 BMP started its effort to resist all forms of violence against women in a multi-dimensional way. By running a free legal aid clinic, law reform movement, giving legal and paralegal training to the mass women, running a home for deserted, destitute women and girls, women and girls who are victims of violence and trafficking BMP become a center of hope for distressed and destitute women and girls. Through alternative dispute resolution process BMP is playing the role of facilitator for crores of women and affected family members. The multi-sectoral approach for resisting violence against Women and Girls adapted by BMP in 1984-85 is now getting importance and becoming popular day by day. CSW 2013 had focused highly on the multi-sectoral approach to resist and eliminate all kinds of violence against women and girls. From an in-depth survey and both internal and external study BMP has become an agent of change which is working as an umbrella force or strength for hundreds of thousands of women in Bangladesh.
To aware general mass women and raising their consciousness as citizens of a state, BMP for four decades is running training program with a concrete gender based training module. By introducing gender certificate course and running and organizing study circle among young men and women, BMP opened a new venue for inclusion of the young in this women's movement. We are grateful to our resource persons.
As BMP started its functioning during the time of liberation war from its very inception it has been linked with the regional and global women's movements and organizations. Now, it is very closely working with UNWOMEN, CSW. As an ECOSOC affiliated organization it has been linked very closely and working with the global women's human rights movements. In the light of Vienna, UNCEDAW, Beijing and other UNHR declaration it has updated its programs after '90s.
As BMP believes women's movement is a part and parcel of national democratic movement of a country and state, BMP as an organization and its leaders are actively engaged in all of the national democratic movements. Organizing and participating in the 1971 liberation war by our founder president Poet Sufia Kamal and other first generation leading organizers, till now BMP has been very closely engaged in each and every democratic struggle. BMP always participated without any hesitation in each and every effort against all kinds of communal, religious fundamentalist and autocratic trends. To establish a non-communal, secular, democratic, equity based society, BMP has been following multi-dimensional approaches. BMP individually is trying to organize a strong mass women's movement within the society and state and is trying to build up a strong united national women's movement, sometimes in the name of “Oikkoboddha Nari Somaj” and other names.
Religious extremism has taken its many ugly forms which is a great hindrance for women's human rights. In this regards our slogan is “Stop using religion in politics”, enhance and promote women's human rights, establish gender equality and democracy. Bangladesh Mahila Parishad as an organization and as a movement has walked a long way and still there is a long way to go. BMP and its workers, followers and supporters must get ready to face 21st century with its enormous possibilities and hundreds of new challenges have been created by this new era. We have to walk faster and stronger in a more skilled and dynamic way.
The writer is President, Bangladesh Mahila Parishad.