Adi Chowdhury: A new year is dawning—the year of 2017. Let this new year be a year of joy, celebration, peace, and—above all—progress.
Bangladesh is suffering from deep-seated sexism that prevents women and girls from receiving an education, acquiring employment, gaining control over their own lives, and enjoying basic freedoms and liberties. This culture of sexism and oppression must meet its end, in order for Bangladesh to make social progress. This must be the year that we strengthen our efforts to push for gender equality and battle the forces of prejudice. The young Bangladeshi women entering high school in 2017 will be establishing their careers around 2025. If we vow to make 2017 a year of change and progress, then these young girls will emerge as bold, educated, and determined women in 2025.
This is why I strongly propose that we all make our 2017 resolution to be to raise awareness for gender inequality and teach young girls everywhere that they are capable, powerful humans. By maintaining this resolution, I do believe that the future of Bangladesh can be refreshingly altered. By following this resolution closely and faithfully, the Bangladesh of 2025 has the potential to be a land of enlightenment and equality.
Right now, there are countless girls in Bangladesh who live a life of shame. Why? Because they are told constantly that their gender automatically makes them unworthy –unworthy of leadership, unworthy of wealth, unworthy of success in life. Their gender is a problem. Their gender undermines their value and their importance. Their gender strips them of their rights and liberties.
Because of this,girls are halted on their journey to education and employment. They are pushed away from a safe, secure life by the cruel hands of society—wielding the weapons of sexism and oppression. They are deprived of the success and stability that they deserve. They are regarded to be second-class citizens. They are destined by society to always be assistants, followers, and helpers—never the leaders. The position of leadership is strangely reserved for men, restricted from the presence of women.
In families across Bangladesh, the men are considered to be the key to success—the sons and the brothers are thought to be dominant over their female counterparts. The males are taught to be the leaders, the bosses, the thinkers, the change-makers, the money-makers—while females are “destined” to serve simply as wives and caretakers, never the ones making powerful impacts in the real world. This tradition of expecting men, rather than women, to be inspirational leaders, is toxic to the fabric of democracy—it limits the confidence, values, and abilities of women.
This is why women must seize these positions and these rights for themselves, instead of just waiting around for men to help them. This is why society must change from within—supporters of gender equality must create their own revolution, create their own change, and work towards a more hopeful future.
Women shouldn’t have to wait for men to simply hand them their basic human rights. Women shouldn’t just hesitate and wait for men to open the school doors for them. Women shouldn’t wait around for men to hand them jobs and provide employment. Women shouldn’t wait for freedom and progress to be carried out for them on a silver platter.
No—women must step up and claim the initiative to grab these rights by themselves, for themselves. It is our responsibility, as soldiers for gender equality, to battle for these rights, to wage war against sexism and repressive social standards. It is our duty to raise awareness for pressing issues, and work towards a stable and unifying solution.
Through such efforts, Bangladesh can raise a new generation of women—females who no longer believe that they are the weaker gender, who no longer believe that they are inherently inferior, who no longer bow down to oppressive and abusive social customs, who no longer submit to sexism and superstition. This new generation, of course, includes men as well—men who reject the prejudiced teachings common in society, who support a progressive community that is equal for all.
This new generation will maintain the values necessary for social progress in Bangladesh: integrity, equality, freedom, democracy, reason, dedication, and compassion. These new men and women will toss away the harmful practices of the past: sexism, racism, prejudice, inequality, superstition, and barbarism. This new generation will not be afraid of the looming threat of sexism—no, they will be bold and brave in their battle against gender equality.
A new generation of feminists and compassionate, logical thinkers will bring forth a new age in Bangladeshi history—an age of reason, an age of equality, an age of enlightenment. The dark ages of prejudice and oppression will be long gone, replaced by the power of liberal thinking and the fight for freedom.
Imagine the Bangladesh of 2025 if this revolution can be accomplished. Girls would grow up without any fears or feelings of inferiority about their gender. Education would be provided for girls as much as boys, forming a new generation of educated and knowledgeable women. Women would have access to far more areas of employment, achieving roles of leadership in the business world, politics, and in various regions of the workforce. The position of a “leader” in the family would no longer be reserved for one gender—men and women, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters would finally be treated as equals rather than ranks. Men would no longer need to be relied upon for income and authority—women can claim such roles for themselves and destroy the stereotypes and superstitions of the past.
The uprising of these values is the basis of my New Year’s Resolution for 2017. This resolution is aimed towards enhancing gender equality in Bangladesh and the rest of the world. While this may seem like an intimidating and frightening task—it indeed is!—it can be accomplished thoroughly by raising awareness for gender issues, seizing the authority to combat sexism, and taking the initiative to make changes in society.
Let 2017 be the year that Bangladesh undergoes this change. Let 2017 mark the transition from sexism to social progress. Let 2017 be the basis of a new revolution in Bengali culture—a revolution of reason, compassion, and equality.
Happy New Year’s, everyone!