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Economic and academic opportunities heralding social liberty

  • Published at 03:38 pm July 30th, 2019
Women of Mongla
Photos: Mahmud Hossain Opu

Factors involved in enfranchising women in Mongla

Gender equality is the fifth of seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To achieve the goal, people need to ensure equal rights of male and female in all sectors. Now the process of obtaining the objectives are becoming wide-ranging through ensuring the equal participation in educational areas, the opportunity of work with equal wages in non-agricultural sectors, and the proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments (Kabeer N. et al. 2010).

Mongla is a town situated in the south-western part of Bangladesh. Since 1954, Mongla town has become one of the busiest cities of Bangladesh due to having one of the busiest ports named the Mongla Port.  During that time, females were not allowed to move along due to feelings of insecurity. Even during the day time, they usually avoided going outside of the house without a male accompanying her. The female of Mongla town had no opportunity to delay marriage and had no room to be independent. Due to having a lack of social safety for girls, none of the girls in Mongla town went to school, and child marriage was prevalent in the town.

Since father Regan, a preacher of Christian Missionary came to Mongla, the educational development, especially for girls, has flourished in Mongla town. For the last few years, several NGOs, INGOs, and Government have been working to ensure female education through providing awareness trainings for parents and providing scholarship and sub-scholarship for the meritorious girls.

In 1985, the first school for girls established in Mongla name Mongla Girl's school played a vital role in encouraging admittance of girls to school and since 1996, schools and colleges have become more developed.

Now the primary educational facilities of Mongla town are better with qualified teachers. There is also a college for females established in 1994 called Bangabandhu Mohila College. This college offers Intermediate and Degree levels students to study and from this year (2019) Honor's level classes have started.  

Previously, there was a lack of opportunity for higher studies for female students. Two-thirds of the female students come from outside of Mongla town, often facing the problem to reach class on time. Their difficulty reaching school is most noticeable during the summer and monsoon seasons, with heavy torrential rain and risks of flooding. Several students have had to inform their teachers that they are only able to attend classes for three or four days of the week.  By ensuring accommodation facilities for girls, this will assist and encourage more girls to not only study.  

With the help of different NGOs and INGOs, parents have now realized that education is essential for a better future for their children, as farming has a limited prospect in the area. Mother seeks to give their daughters the oppurtunity that they never had. Twelve to eighteen-year-old children and their mothers are getting training from World Vision on the impact of child labour and child marriage.

JJS, a social and environmental development NGO, also offers vocational training to girls and helps them to get ready to work in Mongla Export Processing Zone (EPZ) and other industries. Workers of EPZ also get training for two months after starting their work at EPZ. In the first week of July, Mohila Vice Chairman of Mongla town organized training for local girls. The Facilitators came from Aarong to teach the girls how to make handicrafts and other products for their brand.

Formerly, women of Mongla town had been permitted to work outside the home only if it was necessary for family survival. But from 1998, the employment rate for Mongla girls increased, especially after establishing the EPZ and aiding the helpless, uneducated or half-educated, divorced and single mothers with an opportunity to earn.

Within two years after creating of EPZ, the females realized the power dynamics that influences their ability to make family decisions. Professional opportunities for women increase the likelihood that women will look after their wellbeing along with that of their family. They are now less likely to suffer from domestic violence, and their decisions influence the spending of family expenses. According to one of the senior officers of Mongla EPZ, 59 percent of the present workers of the Mongla EPZ are female. Among them, around 20 percent of the women workers come from the outside of Mongla Town.

However, students from families with both parents working as labours are raised without love and care; they often adopt drugs and other social crimes. As a result, some of the families don't allow the female to work outside the home. Though a considerable number of women are now engaging with different income generation activities, still women are still prohibited from going outside the house during the night.

There should be more powerful forces within the policy domain itself that will encourage women's rights, especially laws and policies against violence against women and unjust laws. Ensuring women empowerment and gender equality needs to be a priority of policy-makers, Upazila Mohila Bisoyok Kormokorta, Mohila Vice Chairman, NGOs, and INGOs. Working together, they can provide a quality life for women, quality education for girls and proper working opportunities with equal wages. These actions will help to achieve the goal of SDG 5.

Mity Mahmuda is a Junior Researcher at the International Centre for Climate Change and Development.