Monday, October 14, 2019

UN agencies honour three Bangladeshi women who broke barriers

  • Senior Correspondent,
    Published: 2019-03-15 02:37:15 BdST


Three UN agencies in Dhaka have honoured as many Bangladeshi women who defied tradition, challenged gender stereotypes and social barriers and became “successful”.

Pushpa Khatun, 19, Parvin Akhter, 33, and Nasima Akhter, 37, received recognition award from the country heads of the ILO, UN Women and UNFPA at an event in Dhaka on Thursday.

The awards marked the International Women’s Day celebrated on Mar 8. The UN agencies in a statement said the fearless journeys of Pushpa, Parveen and Nasima to transform their lives and that of others resonate with theme of the day this year – “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change”.

About 31 million women in Bangladesh are not engaged in education, employment or training, according to labour force data.

“Women face multiple challenges in attaining quality education and in finding decent employment. The ILO, through its skills development programme in Bangladesh, is creating opportunities for women of all ages to access vocational education and training and find job placement,” ILO Country Director Tuomo Poutiainen said.

UN Women Country Representative Shoko Ishikawa said: “We have to create an environment where women can thrive as entrepreneurs by removing structural barriers such as gender-bias that banks have towards financing women’s businesses and increasing government investment in women-friendly public services such as child care that would free up women’s time.”

Speaking at the event, UNFPA Representative Asa Torkelsson said, “Clearly, women’s access to reproductive health has been a game changer for women’s economic empowerment across the world, and in Bangladesh too.

“In order to increase women’s access to sexual and reproductive health (SRHR), UNFPA Bangladesh has substantially contributed to the development of Midwifery education in Bangladesh and deployed 1,200 Midwives in 350 Upazila Health Complexes.”

As a member of the UNFPA-supported Nari Nirjaton Protirodh Committee and a community activist in Bogra, Pushpa has stopped 13 child marriages, including her own, and provided support to eight victims of domestic violence.

“I saw my friends falling victim to child marriage and how it ruined their dreams and aspirations while affecting their physical and mental wellbeing.

“I did not want to be one of them and neither do I want it to happen to others. So here I am today, doing what I believe in the most - no girl deserves to be a victim of child marriage and no woman should face gender-based violence,” she said.

Parvin was forced into early marriage when she was in school. But with training and seed-funding from the UN, she was able to attract financing from a private bank against her business plan.

She now runs a small textile factory which employs poor women and caters to clients based in Dhaka and the UK.

She has introduced flexible work hours and a childcare facility in her factory to ensure a women-friendly workplace, and also provides sexual harassment training for all her employees.

Another awardee, Nasima was an overseas worker who returned home and took a vocational course in electronics.

She is currently employed as a quality controller at an international appliance company.

Her job as a technician is considered to be a non-traditional career for women in Bangladesh, but it now provides for her son’s education.

“I felt lucky to have received skills training at an ‘older’ age. My dream is to be a supervisor in the production floor of this factory,” she said.

Government officials, diplomats and representatives from UN agencies, development partners, civil society, the private sector, employers’ and workers’ organisations attended the programme.

This year’s joint UN event to mark International Women’s Day reflects the spirit of the UN reform agenda, ILO’s 100 years celebration, 50 years of the UNFPA and UN Women’s continued mandate to advance women’s rights and opportunities.