Bangladesh: Women in Politics: Shama Obaid Islam

Stine Eckert, Pulitzer Student Fellow

It was the first woman-to-woman race in Faridpur-2, when Shama Obaid Islam ran for a seat in parliament in the December 2008 national election in Bangladesh. A young woman new to politics, Shama Obaid Islam, 36, of the Bangladeshi National Party (BNP) challenged veteran politician 73-year-old Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury of the opposing major party, the Awami League -- and lost. But she says she has lots of time before her and just got started. Next time, she says, she will run again for her constituency of 216,000 people in Faridpur, one of the 64 districts in Bangladesh, southwest of the central capital Dhaka. In an interview she explains the obstacles she's been facing as a female politician in patriachal Bangladesh (part 1 of 2).

Shama Obaid Islam is not only experiencing what is means to be a new face on the scene but also to be a woman in politics in male-dominated Bangladesh. While her late father's image as a popular member of the parliament and former minister boosted her campaign during the 2008 national election, it also became "frustrating" she says, that the respect people paid her was due to him.

Since her father passed away in March 2007, Ms Islam has been trying to fill his footsteps to represent his constituency in Faridpur district southwest of Dhaka. Despite her newcomer appeal with strong favorable family background, she lost the race. She gained, however, 85,000 to 90,000 votes of 216,000 total (part 2 of 2).