Bangladesh: The (Un)Power of Women

As U.S. citizens missed their chance to elect a woman for president for the first time in 2008, Bangladeshis elected a female prime minister past December for the fourth time. Sheik Hasina is currently one of 11 female heads of state worldwide according to the Council of Women World Leaders (Aspen Institute). But many of the 76 million women in Bangladesh are still facing discrimination, oppression and violence every day in a country of 150 million living on an area comparable to Wisconsin.

What is keeping Bangladeshi women from emancipation when their country is ruled by one of their own? How is their situation now? What are their most urgent needs; which rights are they fighting for? And how does society perceive them?

This project attempts to trace women in Bangladeshi society on both sides of the power spectrum. On one hand, I want to visit organizations such as Nari Jibon who empower women by teaching skills and giving them a voice via blogs, Karmojibi Nari, an initiative of working women, and Odhikar, a leading NGO and watchdog for human rights.

On the other end of the power spectrum, 45 of the 345 seats in parliament are reserved for women. Nineteen women won unreserved seats in the past election. An interview with female politicians will show the clout they have to shape legislation.

Bangladesh: UNDP's Majeda Haq on gender (In)equality in Bangladesh (part 1 of 2)

Stine Eckert, Pulitzer Student Fellow

On the backdrop of a constitution which includes an article that is "a little bit faulty in terms of achieving gender equaltiy" and a two-fold Muslim and Hindu patriarchal culture in place, United Nations Development Program Gender Expert Majeda Haq, explains the uphill battle women face in Bangladesh. She says it will take at least two more generations before society will change. Part 1 of 2


A quiet fragile woman in a bright yellow sari drifts in and out of the doorframe of the computer room. Sixty-five-year old Ruma has been with Nari Jibon since the beginning of the project in March 2005. She helps the tailoring students, brings tea, and welcomes guests at Nari Jibon.

Bangladesh: Aumio Srizan Samya on violence against women

Stine Eckert, Pulitzer Student Fellow

With astonishment students at the women studies department at Dhaka University witnessed how easy it is for a boy to get away with physically abusing a girl on campus. First-year master student Aumio Srizan Samya, 25, tells the story.