The UN has honoured three Bangladeshi women who defied tradition, gender stereotypes and social barriers to become successful and contributing part of the community.
Pushpa Khatun (19), Parvin Akhter (33) and Nasima Akhter (37) received recognition award through a ceremony held in the capital on Thursday.
The three received the awards by the country heads of event organisers ILO, UN Women and UNFPA. The programme was organised to mark the nternational Women’s Day 2019.
The journeys of Pushpa, Parveen and Nasima to transform their lives and that of others resonate with this year’s International Women’s Day theme - ‘Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change’.
Pushpa Khatun, a member of the UNFPA supported Nari Nirjaton Protirodh Committee and also a community activist in Bogra, 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 marriages and saw how it ruined their dreams and aspirations while affecting their physical and mental wellbeing. I did not want to be like one of them and neither do I want this to happen to others.
“So here I am today, doing what I believe in most - no girl deserves to be a victim of child marriage and no woman should face gender-based violence”, she continued.
Parvin Akthar, now an entrepreneur, was forced into early marriage when she was in school. But with training and funding from the UN, she was able to attract financing from a private bank for her business plan.
Now she runs a small textile factory which employs poor women and caters to Dhaka and UK based clients.
Moreover, Parvin has introduced flexible work hours and a child care facility in her factory to ensure a women friendly workplace, and also provides sexual harassment training for all her workers.
Nasima Akhter, an overseas worker, 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 one for Bangladeshi women. But it 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”, says she.
31 million women in Bangladesh are uneducated, employed or receiving any training, according to labour force data.
Addressing this issue, Country Director of ILO Bangladesh, Tuomo Poutiainen said: “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”, she added.
Shoko Ishikawa, Country Representative of UN Women, said: “We have to create an environment where women can thrive as entrepreneurs by removing structural barriers such as gender-bias.”
“Banks have initiatives for financing women’s businesses and increasing government investment in women-friendly public services such as child care services”, she added.
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 contributed substantially to the development of Midwifery education in Bangladesh and deployed 1200 Midwives in 350 Upazila Health Complexes,” she further said.
Torkelsson also said: “UNFPA supported Bangladesh Police to establish 33 Women Help Desks (WHDs) in police stations and court premises. UNFPA’s work contributes towards empowerment of women and girls, making efforts to ending all harmful practices against them through our Gender-Based Violence (GBV) work too.”
Government officials, diplomats and representatives from UN agencies, development partners, civil society, the private sector, employers’ and workers’ organisations attended the programme.
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