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: Aumio Srizan Samya on why he chose Women's Studies

Stine Eckert, Pulitzer Student Fellow

Increasingly more boys are joining the group of about 30 students per semester who enter the women studies program at Dhaka University, the number one university in Bangladesh. One of them is 25-year old Aumio Srizan Samya who has started his master's in women studies after completing a four-year bachelor in the department. He says his academic field of interest has caused some surprise for parts of his family.

Bangladesh: Kuntala Chowdhury on Eve-teasing

Stine Eckert, Pulitzer Student Fellow

Another problem for women in Bangladeshi society is the so-called eve-teasing, verbal insults that women encounter on the street or in public institutions. It can be compared to whistling at a woman in Western society but can take other more abusing forms. Twenty-year old student of women studies at Dhaka University, Kuntala Chowdhury, shares her experience with eve-teasing and the helplessness she felt
despite a law in place.