• Wednesday, May 22, 2019
  • Last Update : 10:47 am

UN awards three Bangladeshi women

  • Published at 01:17 am March 15th, 2019
UN award
Innovative Approach Towards Gender Equality award winners with the ILO, UNFPA and UN Women country heads Courtesy

At an event hosted by the ILO, UN Women, and UNFPA on Thursday, Pushpa Khatun, 19, Parvin Akhter, 33, and Nasima Akhter, 37, received recognition awards from the country heads of the respective UN agencies

To mark International Women’s Day 2019, the UN honoured three Bangladeshi women who defied tradition, challenged gender stereotypes and social barriers to become a successful community activist, an entrepreneur, and an employee in a non-traditional sector, respectively.

At an event hosted by the ILO, UN Women, and UNFPA on Thursday, Pushpa Khatun, 19, Parvin Akhter, 33, and Nasima Akhter, 37, received recognition awards from the country heads of the respective UN agencies.

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

She said: “I saw my friends who fall victim to child marriage and saw 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.”

Parvin Akthar was forced into early marriage when she was in school. However, 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 that employs poor women and caters to Dhaka and UK based clients. 

She has introduced flexible work hours and a child care facility in her factory, to ensure a women friendly workplace, and also provides training on dealing with sexual harassment for all her workers.

Nasima Akhter 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, but it provides for her son’s education. 

“I feel lucky to have received skills training at an older age. My dream is to be a supervisor on the production floor of this factory,” Nasima said.

A total 31 million women in Bangladesh are not engaged in education, employment or training, according to labour force data. Addressing this issue, ILO Bangladesh Country Director Tuomo Poutiainen said: “Women face multiple challenges in attaining quality education and in finding decent employment. The ILO, through its skills development program in Bangladesh, is creating opportunities for women of all ages to access vocational education and training and find job placement.”

Meanwhile, 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 Dr 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 1200 Midwives in 350 Upazila Health Complexes.

“In addition to ensuring SRHR, we need to secure safe spaces, at home, and at work, so that women can prosper,” she added.

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.

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