A Growing Presence
Most Bangladeshi women grow up learning their place in society and in the household. They learn that their voice must always be in check, that they belong primarily in the kitchen and that their purpose is to be a homemaker. That would be the entirety of what women were in Bangladesh if this was the 1990s. But times have changed. The empowerment of women and their participation in the mainstream economy has transformed Bangladesh. Truth is, what it means to be a woman, even in the rural corners of Bangladesh, has changed dramatically over the last two and a half decades. The statistics will show you that the labour force participation rate has climbed from only 13 percent in 1986 to 36 percent in 2010! This means the proportion of women working outside their homes and earning their own living has almost tripled in that time. It's also interesting to see where Bangladesh stands in terms of a few neighbouring countries: India's current female labour participation rate is 32 percent, while Pakistan's is only 14.3 percent!
While these statistics are important in bringing the macro perspective to light, they fail to capture the human stories embedded inside. What these numbers cannot show us are how different the lives of these women are today, and how diverse their occupations are. Where numbers fail to tell the story, photographs succeed in letting us see the openness of wives of dressmakers who aid their husbands in taking customer's measurements, the hope in the hands of girls in pharmaceutical production lines and in garment factories, and the strength of female sportspersons. Women are no longer hidden within the walls where their labour remains unacknowledged. They are competing in the world of men with steady hands. And where men work all day and go back home to rest, women work all day and go back home to begin their moonlighting careers, as loving mothers, the best chefs, and as champion homemakers of Bangladesh. To bring the stories of today's women to light, Celebrating Life's theme for 2013 was “Empowerment of Women”.
Celebrating Life, Celebrating Empowerment
“Celebrating Life" is a competition which brings films, photographs and lyrics entries to the same platform. The contest showcases various aspects of life in Bangladesh, based on a preselected theme for the year. Organised jointly by The Daily Star and Standard Chartered Bank, Celebrating Life provides a massive platform for creative expression to newcomers and professionals alike. The theme for Celebrating Life 2013 was 'Empowerment of Women'. Celebrating Life hopes to inspire its participants to search for stories of betterment which has enabled Bangladesh to come where it stands today. Bangladeshi women have learnt to take greater control over their lives, breaking free of traditional constraints which put them in an uneven playing field. There are thousands of women whose talents lie uninitiated, whose ambitions never take flight, whose potentials for contributing to the society are never explored. These women are coming forward every day in Bangladesh, becoming equals of men, in their families, as breadwinners, as decision makers and as opinion makers.
Since 2008, Celebrating Life has grown remarkably in terms of the number of participants and number of entries submitted; it has also grown far more diverse, reaching hundreds of thousands of people. The organisers have planned grand events throughout the year to showcase previous and current year's winning entries. In the spirit of patronizing the quality of production over the total number, the awards will be no less prestigious and no less financially attractive than any other competition - totaling in over seven and a half lakh taka in prize money. Dozens of participants who don't win marginally receive 'Honourable Mention' awards, along with crests and certificates. Celebrating Life encourages contestants to broaden their horizon of thinking and take their cameras to the remotest corners of Bangladesh, and to bring rural Bangladesh to the limelight. Weeklong festivals are organised in districts of Bangladesh throughout the year, showcasing the winning entries from the previous years' contests; bringing the spirit of Celebrating Life to remote areas and villages of Bangladesh, and making sure that the whole nation can participate in the celebrations!
About the Photography Contest
The photography contest, one of the three contests of Celebrating Life, invite participants to submit a maximum of 3 entries per person. A jury board composed of eminent personalities/experts in the field of photography critique the submissions, amongst which three winners are selected. These winners receive certificates, crests and cash prizes. Initial screening shortlists a few hundred photographs from tens of thousands of entries every year. The judges then go through the shortlisted photos, scoring and ranking them to find the top photographs. The winner receives a cash prize of Tk. 100,000/- the 1st runner's up entry receives Tk. 50,000/- and the 2nd runner's up entry will receives Tk. 25,000/-. Nine additional entries receive honorable mention awards and certificates only. The twelve finalists receive massive promotion, through the grand annual award giving ceremony, the district level festivals, on Standard Chartered Bank's early calendars, and through a photo-book publication printed once every two years, not to mention being published in The Daily Star! All of these twelve finalists of 2013 are being featured in today's issue of the Star magazine!
Meet the Photography Judges of 2013
In 2013, Celebrating Life's Photography contest brought together three noted personalities of the photographic community as judges. They are Md. Rashid Un Nabi, Nafis Ahmed Nadvi and Abir Abdullah. Rashid is a cancer specialist by profession, who won about 30 national and 62 international awards in photography including FIAP Gold Medal, PSA Gold Medal, Asahi Shimbun Gold Medal, FIAP Honorable Mention Blue Ribbon, Nikon award, MILK award, FIAP Bronze Medal etc. He was also the Editor of the Bangladesh Photographic Society Journal from 1990 to 1991.
Nadvi comes from a family of renowned photographers. After obtaining his Bachelor of Fine Art degree from Dhaka University, he went on to win many photographic accolades, including the 1st Prize in the 2nd National Photo Contest organised by the Bangladesh Photographic Society, the 3rd Award in the 1st International Photographic Art Exhibition organised by the Photographic Association of Beijing of China and Best Prize in the 2nd National Photo Contest organised by the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy, to name a few.
Abir is an internationally renowned photographer whose work has been exhibited in Europe, South America, Asia and the U.S. His work has been published in the World Press Photo book New Stories and Phaidon Press' Blink. He is currently working for the European Press photo Agency (EPA) as its Bangladesh correspondent, and is known for his work on environmental issues.
For details about Celebrating Life, please visit www.celebratinglifebd.com, and search for 'celebratinglifecontests' in Facebook.