The speakers came up with the observation while addressing a café talk show celebrating International Women’s Day 2021
"I sing of equality/Between men and women there are no differences that I can see" resounded through the conference hall as three generations of women recited the timeless words of national poet Kazi Nazrul Islam at a program in the city to celebrate International Women’s Day 2021.
Golam Monowar Kamal, executive director of Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), delivered the introductory speech at the event.
He said: “This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is women in leadership achieving an equal future in a Covid-19 world. I would like to note that women in leadership have added great value and minimized gender gap. Women act as caregivers, human rights activists, innovators, community organizers and frontline health workers. They are exemplars of effective national leadership in this pandemic.
"We need to think about how we can change the situation through immediate action and go for connectivity. We are aware of gender-based violence; it is a global problem and one of the biggest obstacles in the way of an enhancement of women's leadership.”
He was followed by a trio of women across three generations for the recitation of the poem by Kazi Nazrul.
Unified and immediate actions are crucial for ensuring an equal world free of violence for women and girls, speakers said at the event.
Promoting women's leadership and alleviating gender-based violence requires the involvement of multi-disciplinary actors, they said, emphasizing the need for coordination among key stakeholders, including the government, UN agencies, international and national NGOs, civil society organizations, women rights activists, and the media.
The speakers made the remarks at the café talk show celebrating International Women’s Day 2021 observed in Bangladesh as elsewhere around the globe on Monday, celebrating women's achievements, raising awareness against bias, and taking action toward ensuring gender equality.
Zafar Sobhan, editor of Dhaka Tribune, hosted a panel entitled, “How can we enhance women’s leadership to create a more equal tomorrow?” Speakers said celebrating women's achievements, as well as raising awareness on gender-based violence would help forge a gender equal and violence-free world.
Jabo Bohudur Founder and Team Leader Atiqua Roma, trans-woman entrepreneur Shova Sarkar with Bandhu Social Welfare, and Youth for Change Bangladesh Co-founder and Head of Innovation and Development Kamrul Hasan Shawon were the panelists.
Atiqua Roma said: “2020 is a short time to learn; it takes many more years, but this time women have set an example of how to lead. Women are moving forward but the government is not providing enough support; it needs to pave the way. During the pandemic, there was a great increase in domestic violence, including rape and torture. These are obstacles for women.”
Shova Sarkar said: “As a transgender woman, I feel honoured to have the opportunity to speak on this occasion as a female speaker. I feel honoured to have been recognized as a woman. Women do not have to be given a chance. A woman can demonstrate her talent and her ability to participate in the world with courage. The reason women are left behind is hatred and violence in society.”
Kamrul Hasan Shawon said: “Where 50% of the population are men, why cannot they support the other 50% population comprising women? These men need to work in ensuring that women move towards gender equality and women's empowerment.”
The talk show was interspersed with discussion panels, speeches from dignitaries and eminent guests, recitals, dance performance by Sudeshna Swayamprabha, and musical performance by Tashfee.
Aimed at building coalition and support on IWD, the event titled “Act Now for an Equal Tomorrow” was jointly organized by the Department of Women Affairs (DWA) of the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs (MoWCA), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK), together with Dhaka Tribune at Brac Centre Inn in Dhaka. The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands supported the event.
Ram Chandra Das, director general, Department of Women Affairs (DWA) of the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs (MoWCA); Dr Asa Torkelsson, representative, United Nations Population Fund; and Harry Verweij, ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands were present via Zoom as special guests and guest of honour, respectively.
Ram Chandra Das said: “Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is giving directions toward creating a society conducive to women enjoying equal opportunities in the world to come. Our goal is to have equal participation of men and women in the workplace by 2040.”
He added: “Violence against women has increased during the pandemic. To this end, we have taken various measures, giving our elected representatives the responsibility to pay special attention and take immediate action. Special training programs have been arranged to make marginalized women self-reliant; around 5,000 youth clubs where both boys and girls are trained to be leaders have been set up across the country so that they can report any complaints and issues.”
Ambassador Harry Verweij of the Netherlands said: “We need more women in leadership in a post-Covid-19 world, not just in Bangladesh. We spoke with three highly successful female entrepreneurs in Bangladesh. They told me about their businesses and the challenges. It is true that every entrepreneur faces hardships but for women it is significantly more difficult to be entrepreneurs.
“First of all, to improve empowerment and eliminate gender-based violence, girls must enjoy the same education opportunities as boys. For women need equal access to men for quality development. A successful woman can be another woman's inspiration. An established woman not only brings economic liberation, but also increases the social status of women and empowerment."
Dr Asa Torkelsson, representative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Bangladesh, delivered the closing remarks: “While women’s advancement and economic empowerment have defined Bangladesh’s progress over the years, many deep rooted issues such as patriarchal norms and new challenges such as the Covid-19 pandemic, create roadblocks in our joint strides taken towards a gender equal society in Bangladesh.
To overcome these challenges and to achieve the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, it is absolutely vital that we place women at the heart of our work in Bangladesh, and across the world."