Posts Tagged ‘women’


Still a man’s world!

September 4, 2013

Guest Post by Tahmina Shafique, WB-SAES Youth Delegate from Bangladesh  at

A session to address gender disparities in the economic context held this afternoon, had approximately 70% women participation and very few men! Well, there we go with disparity!

One does not need to go into details of the massive levels of gender disparity that exists in South Asia. It is prominent in every sphere of our lives. Despite representing about 50% of the total population in each country in the region, and having achieved much progress, we have not been able to break that boundary. Participation of women in all levels have been significantly slow and a battle that we continue to fight.

So, as we continue to speak about growth, inclusive growth, we must bring about the issue of gender disparities. One may argue that this is of course a given. But, in the context of South Asia, given the backdrop of a traditional social structure that deems women secondary, such an economic summit must bring the issue of gender disparity on the forefront. How does South Asia as a region achieve that higher growth without gender parity?

This afternoon’s parallel session on “Mind the Gap” questioned exactly this. Numerous studies revealed during this session, stated that massive levels of inequality exist and need urgent attention. Inequality exists in the household decision making process, labour force participation, education, and more. Participation in parliaments and politics remains to be significantly low. Turns out gender inequality index remains to be low even in a country such as Sri Lanka, which battled to be out there in terms of gender parity from the 70s. Despite the improvements in education levels, it seems that the demand for jobs remains to be low to cater to the growing number of woman. The types of jobs and legislation are still written from a man’s perspectives.

If we take the case of Bangladesh, private sector is a thriving sector. It has been, by and large the driver and engine for economic growth. If we look at the thriving sector RMG, approximately 80% of the workers are women. But, wait a minute, all of these women are employed at the lowest levels. Move to the supervisory or managerial roles, their participation is insignificant.

Our development agenda and goals do focus on gender parity and gender mainstreaming. But one thing that we have been unable to move away from this obsession with representing women as the recipient of growth, a “trickle down” effect of growth, or being the poor, minority segment.

The truth is, we are not minority in any possible shape or form. We represent 50% of the population. So why are we not moving into mainstreaming women in the economy to achieve growth, instead of making them a side-kick or the victim who has benefited from growth?

If we are to continue this discourse on gender equality, than we must begin this in practices. Civil society needs to play an active role in ensuring that each levels of distribution system looks at inclusion and means of inclusion of women.

Economic concepts cannot be looked at in an isolated manner. It needs to linked with social aspects.

Mind the Gap

If the societal values need to be looked at, it needs to start from home. It needs to start from education. It is within the children that we need to instill the values that are not characterized by patriarchy. It is here that the value systems develop and it is here how the view of a woman and her worth is shaped within our homes and societies.


This gender parity battle has been fought for way too long. And this battle for prosperous economic growth cannot be won in a man’s world. Turn it around, and it all might just start shifting.


the ‘D’ tag

July 18, 2009

She was always very particular about things. Her own wedding, obviously was not an exception. she focused on each and every detail- the colour of the flowers, the candles, the sarees, the costumes of the dancers, the dance steps, the mehendi design- name it. It was a grand wedding. The kind every girl possibly dreams of- lights, candles, flowers, sparks. a fairytale wedding.

Two years later, she sits at a crowded restaurant joking about her friend who met the (fat) girl of his dreams at her wedding while the girl was dancing. The irony was that as we spoke of the (fat) dream girl, she was sitting at the other end of the restaurant with her friend. We keep our voices low and laugh about how the friend is still with this girl! ‘Yeah, how funny! My marriage fell apart just like that and look they are still together,’ she says laughing and looking away.

She does this a lot. Laughs it off as though it does not hurt anymore. as though she is immune to any kind of pain. i would not blame her if that was true though. she has had to swallow so much. its sometimes unbelievable. and at others, just scary.

This friend stayed in an abusive marriage for two years and did everything she could. But why? She is beautiful, educated, confident and eligible in every possible way. ‘It was a marriage. You just cannot walk away like that – there is the family and the society to answer.’

So, she did stay on in this marriage, with a man who married her as part of his obligations to his parents (yes, you can play with someone’s life just like that) and took her to the US and continued his relationship with his girlfriend, right before his wife’s eyes. and at the end, just kicked her out of his life, because he could not stand her voice, or her presence.

Did this man’s parents stand and say this was wrong?No, they didn’t. Why would they? They can blame it on her. Maybe she was not patient enough, or good enough, or perhaps too short, no? And our wonderful society followed their voice, and had a blast talking about her.

Her’s is not an isolated case sadly. There are so many more.  Just among a single group of friends, there are six divorcees i know. Tanu has been living through the worst nightmares ever. Five years on, she still sometimes struggles to fight back tears when she speaks of her abusive marriage and divorce. Ridita still swallows everything that the society has to say to her because she is a young, single mother. There is always someone or other, (even the closest people) who remind her she is “different” because it is her “fault” that she is divorced with a child at 26. Nadia is back in Dhaka and she is still dreading it- the society will not spare her at all.

Each of one of these women and countless others have a story to tell. There are those who speak of stories of abuse that they kept hiding for years, until it was enough. and there are these younger women, who are stepping out of marriages as they become nightmares. It takes a lot of courage. a lot of strength to start new. Even after these women pick up the pieces and try to move on, there are always people to pull them back.

The rate of divorces have certainly gone up- at least among the urban middle class families. Putting aside the fact that it is undesireable and indeed a painful experience to go through, it does indicate the fact that women/men are aware of their rights, and have the courage to walk out of marriages, instead of keeping silent forever in an unhappy marriage.

This group is clearly a minor group in the larger society that is still undergoing a transition. The growing numbers of divorce rates do indicate that the stigma associated with the word ‘divorce’ is slowly starting to peel. Families are slowly being supportive, although the numbers are still very low.

Even if there is that family support, there is still the rest of the society that is up on their heels to talk. to analyize the situation. and start the blame game. and mind you, it is always and invariably the woman’s fault- She could have been patient, she was just a rude person, she was too fast, she had to many guy friends, she was just not goodlooking enugh, she needed to be able to know how to keep her man, she did not try enough, so big deal if the man was sleeping with someone? she could compromise for her family or her kids, how hard is it to stay?

Surprisingly, most people who do make these statements are women themselves. I do often wonder. When we do speak of women’s rights and liberation, and the inherent need for the men to realise that it is time for change, do we realise that there is a huge chunk of women who need to help these women too. If women are the once demeaning other women, where do you find the strength to carry on?

Look around you- at home, workplace, get togethers and any where, it is women who are often making other women’s lives miserable. This past week, one of my ‘so-called’ friend comes up to me and whispers about this friend who went through a terrible divorce. ‘She could have compromised a little, couldn’t she? She is a woman afterall. it’s a marriage for the love of God! Is she nuts? who is going to marry her?’

And this is coming from a so-called educated young woman, who presumably believes in equality and works in an international agency. really. my friend, yes she could have compromised just a bit more. really she could have kept silent and be unhappy for the rest of her life. but would you do the same, had you been in her shoes?

Perhaps not. or maybe you too, would have remained silent like countless others and not do justice to your own life.

*names mentioned here have been changed.