Begum Rokeya and Women’s Development

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Begum Rokeya Photo: Internet

The name Begum Rokeya easily comes out while discussing the socio-economic development, especially of Bangladesh. Begum Rokeya is the name of a great woman, the name of a model of women's development, a name of self-determination and many more of these sorts. It is undoubtedly one of the greatest feelings of pride of us to have the birth of Begum Rokeya in Bangladesh.

Begum Rokeya, the great woman, was born on December 9, 1880, at Mithapukur in the district of Rangpur. She died so early at the age of 52 years old in 1932. However, in spite of being short-lived, she established the awakening of women's development by engaging her hard labours and efforts. Having her belonging to a conservative Muslim family, she became successful at her attempts when it was beyond imagination to get the women out of houses. and female education and emancipation were considered as sins. Many years have gone away, now it is 2020, how much success we get to see?

Though there gets a remarkable development in same fields such as the maternal mortality rates are falling, the fertility rate is declining and there is greater gender parity in school enrolments but at the same time, 82 percent of married women suffer from gender-based violence and pervasive sexual violence which prevent women from achieving their full potential. The gender-based discrimination starts at homes in every part of Bangladesh. Having all efforts of government and non-government to reduce child marriages - yet it remains at the highest rate in Bangladesh, in comparison with the other countries in South Asia. Every year, 59% of girls get a divorce for dowry claimed by their husbands. Even in this 21st century, women of any ages cannot go outside of their houses alone at night. Recently almost every day, girls get raped everywhere. Basically, female education, women empowerment, so to say freedom of women - these aspects are highly confined in Bangladesh. Though there are millions of Bangladeshi women are employed in the lucrative readymade garments sector, there also remains large financial gaps. Women provide their highest labour to this sector which made Bangladesh as the largest export industry, but women of this sector are being given the lowest amount of payments. Women’s labours are merely considered which is the real feature behind Bangladesh’s economic achievement in this sector.

Many years ago, Begum Rokeya dreamt in the eyes of Sultana in the book titled ‘Sultana’s Dream’, where a world existed without patriarchal oppression. After very prolonged years, women are still facing men’s anger and bad governances - even in this digital era. Our honourable Prime Minister is a woman, she has the most dynamic leading capacity as the head of administration and she gives utmost priority to women’s development in all sectors - and due to her prudential policies and attempts, a remarkable development of women is happening in Bangladesh, however, still women in this country hardly get equal rights compared to men due to societal norms that enforce restrictive gender roles as well as poor implementation of laws which are set to protect women. We often hear that our honourable PM is a woman or our honourable speaker of parliament is a woman and also a handful of ministers are women - but when it comes to the field levels, we do not have the much-needed gender equality in the leading roles.

Bangladesh aims at becoming a developed country by 2041 - but without equity among men and women, and with a society representing patriarchal governance - it is impossible to make Bangladesh developed and implement the goals of SDG. There is a proverb that "Women's brains are quicker than men's" - so it is high time to give women equal opportunities, to ensure the development of Bangladesh.

The writer is Women's Affairs Officer at Nabinagar, Brahmanbaria.

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