The official journey of Women’s Day started in 1975. In fact, the context of the beginning of Women’s Day was the constant struggle for the rights of women workers. Back then there was wage inequality, working hours were not fixed, and the working environment was also quite inhumane. Women workers took to the streets to protest against such an anarchic situation. In 1857, women workers of a yarn factory took to the streets of New York, USA, to protest; the ruling party of the time did not hesitate to shoot at the procession for repression. But every year, the UN determines the significance of this day considering the global context of women’s rights and establishment. The whole world celebrates this day with this theme in mind. This year, the UN has set the theme for the day, focusing on women’s leadership in the COVID-19 epidemic and women’s leadership in building an equal future.
There is a big difference between the context of the beginning of Women’s Day and the current context. Yet the overall social security of women is in question. From children to the elderly, they are constantly being endangered to various forms of torture and violence. Sometimes a distorted mindset is eroding our values. Our current social system and outlook are still patriarchal. Women have not yet been liberated from their clutches. Equal participation of men and women is required to end this situation.
The point I want to make is that sometimes a development project can be an overall stalemate or a motivating factor in taking progressive initiatives! Women have been playing a very important role in changing this society. Bangladesh is moving forward with its creativity and hard work. Not only that, the active participation of women in all the important democratic struggle movements starting from the great liberation war of Bangladesh was of immense inspiration. This leadership of women has also made an important contribution to the overall progress of Bangladesh. The role of women is not limited to the family to the state, but the direct participation and leadership of women in tackling the current COVID-19 epidemic have shown people the way out of this transition. It has made the role of women leadership more robust and well-established.
The project titled ‘Our Lives, Our Health, Our Futures (OLHF) Programme’ is working to empower adolescents and young women between the ages of 10 and 25 in the 3 hill districts of the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh. It is to be noted that besides the Bengalis, there are about 11 small ethnic groups living in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Although the people of this community have lived in this area for a long time, their overall standard of living is still critical and disadvantaged. They depend on nature for their livelihood. The project is being implemented by 10 local CSOs in the CHT with funding from the European Union and in collaboration with Simavi, the Netherlands, and Bangladesh Nari Progati Sangha (BNPS).
The project is working to improve the overall quality of life by empowering women, increasing their life skills, and creating awareness about abuse and health, taking into account the geographical, social, and environmental conditions of the CHT. The project started in 2019 and will continue till 2023, according to relevant sources.
Under this project, the program of this project is being implemented in 17 Upazilas under 10 local development organizations (CSOs). One of the activities of this project is to operate Girls Club. Under this project, about 12000 adolescents and young women are directly involved in a total of 300 girls’ clubs in 3 hill districts. This girls club session operates and followed by a designed thematic calendar. The main topics covered in this session plan are to know me as a human being, to know the elements for setting goals in life and to build a dignified life, to know reproductive and sexual health and rights as well as human rights, important decision-making process to know the ways to stay free from torture by knowing the causes of discrimination and violence.
Although it is part of a development project, many of the mysteries of women’s backwardness and some backwardness have been highlighted through this activity. Issues are also being given priority in the implementation of activities. As a result, this initiative will undoubtedly play a positive role in sustainable change. However, what I want to focus on here is a project that needs to be expanded across the country. Because the overall picture of violence and oppression against women will make any conscientious person panic and sad.
In order to break these negative attitudes towards women and social prejudices, everyone must first recognize the equal dignity of men and women as human beings. We have to create a supportive environment in the path of women’s friends from family to the state. In that environment, women will have full opportunity to express their rights and enjoy their rights. Then women’s rights will be well established. This beloved homeland will move forward by actively with men and women.
On Women’s Day, I pay my respects to all the struggling women.
About the writer:
Sumit Banik is a public health activist with experience in different significant health programs and research initiatives as a public health worker in Bangladesh. He has completed his post-graduation degree in public health. Sumit is passionate about working for marginalized and unprivileged community people, developing their health outcomes through a sustainable approach. Currently, he’s working with Bangladesh Nari Progati Sangha (BNPS) as a Master Trainer in ‘Our Lives, Our Health, Our Futures’ Programme at Bandarban Hill District in Bangladesh. He has already published more than 200 articles on health, education, social development and degradation in the reputed online media and Bengali dailies besides his articles have been published in various publications of international and national development organizations. For further communication, you can reach him through e-mail: [email protected]