There are many issues that plague the development of women in Bangladesh. While the country is celebrating its 50th year of independence, we cannot for surely say that her womenfolk are fully liberated. And there are few pressing reasons to believe so.
First and foremost, education. It begins at home, starting with parents teaching children good family values, ethics and morals. It is not only the responsibility of the mothers alone but fathers too; parents should teach their sons and daughters the basic etiquettes of respecting women, at home, from the tenderest of ages.
While girls are taught to be docile and raised to be obliging to their fathers, brothers and then husbands, giving an upper hand to the boys at the family level; this attitude must change. Boys should also be taught to be kinder, respectful and helpful towards their mothers, sisters and wives. This core value, would allow them to see a woman with respect and face her eye-to-eye at every societal platform. We always fleetingly hold the mother accountable to teach her children social values and norms; but in reality, it should be the duty of both the parents.
"Education is the key to any attainment and now, women are police officers, army officers, pilots —society is evolving with them. At this age, if a woman is harassed in a bus, or prevented to move freely, then obviously we are going backwards. Just a simple example would suffice; when our girls go aboard for higher studies, they can rent a flat on their own, but here in Bangladesh, can a single girl rent a flat and stay on her own? It is difficult for a divorced woman with children to do the same. Until they are free to move, free to mobilise, I would say we did not achieve women's liberation," says Monira Emdad, Managing Director of Tangail Saree Kutir.
If you see the comment section of any Facebook or YouTube post of a girl, you would know the extent of degradation social morals and principals have undergone. In fact, it is at the level of creating a nuisance for society; and who are the ones commenting in such an undignified way? It is our sons. This is definitely a conjunction of lack of proper education and good family values.
"In religious schools or general schools, the children are learning things that doesn't get along with the rest of the society. The conflict of fundamental or conventional way of thinking, and actually seeing the world moving in unconventional modern ways create hatred in these children and they take it out on the society. They are taught to think lowly of women, they misinterpret modern ways with atheism. These are results of ignorance and half-hearted teachings," she feels.
Then there is the factor of how a woman should dress or behave. Sari, pant suits, shalwar kameez, and skirts are as decent a garb as jeans and tee-shirts or pants and shirts, the question of improper dressing is objectionable.
Child marriage is another issue that should be vetoed. Every parent must have the security to raise their daughters decently till a certain age and not think of them as burdens. Marriage puts the young girl in harm's way and makes her life miserable rather than being a social solution in regards to her security.
And every thana must have a women's corner to launch a FIR or complaint for their grievances. These will go a long way in the end.
"Only a handful of us feel safe in our skin, rest of the people in others cities or urban slums are as vulnerable as they are insecure. Bangladesh is just not Dhaka, the rest of the country matters and backward thinking poses as a problem," she feels.
Good education should start from the primary level and at home. To create gender awareness in their children, fathers should start valuing the contribution made by his wife and show how the efforts of every woman should be respected. Only then, men's attitude towards women would mend.
Thus, considering the lifestyle changes in the lives of Bangladeshi women in the last 50 years, the progress made are plenty, but the problems that remain are no less important.
Photo: STAR Archive