Vol. 5 Num 1141 Tue. August 14, 2007  

'Political will needed to build gender equitable society'

Speakers at a workshop yesterday underscored the need for political will and conceptual clarity of 'gender mainstreaming' in order to build a gender equitable society.

They also urged the authorities to treat women as the target of development instead of using their contribution as the agent of development.

Department of Women and Gender Studies (DWGS), Dhaka University and Gender, Justice and Diversity Unit of Human Resource Division (HRD), Brac jointly organised the workshop titled 'Gender Mainstreaming: Theory to Practice' at the Brac Centre Inn Auditorium in the city.

The workshop is aimed at creating a platform of exchanging views and experience of the challenges and achievements of different organisations, said DWGS Founder Chair Prof Najma Choudhury.

The workshop will also create an environment where students will be able to gain practical knowledge and also develop a network with gender experts working in various organisations, Prof Najma added.

DWGS Chairperson Prof Ayesha Banu presented the keynote paper.

"Since the past century women have won the rights to vote, to speak out in public, to own property, to increased access to higher education and to earn their own living," she said.

Gains have been made, but there are still many more challenging fronts to overcome to take women's questions even further as an integral part of all development effort, she added.

Explaining the term, Prof Ayesha said 'gender mainstreaming' involves ensuring gender perspectives, and attention to the goal of gender equality is central to all activities, including policy development, research, advocacy, legislation, resource allocation, and planning, implementation and monitoring of programmes and projects.

Representatives of Nari Pokkho, Oxfam, Brac, Steps Towards Development (Steps), and Bangladesh Mahila Parishad (BMP) shared their experiences on the issue at the workshop.

BMP General secretary of Ayesha Khanam laid emphasis on the conceptual clarity on gender issue, saying that there is a lack of clarity even among the activists working to ensure gender equality.

"Women are considered as the agent of development rather than the target of development," she said.

Referring to the political commitment, Ayesha suggested that the government should launch goal-based initiatives rather than implementing short-term project.

Mainstreaming means to sensitise all the other sectors such as health and education to gender issues, said Steps Executive Director Ranjan Karmaker.

Brac HRD Director Sheepa Hafiza, HRD Programme Coordinator Habibur Rahman HRD Senior Manager Khadija Leena, Women for Women President Prof Dr Mahmuda Islam and DWGS Lecturer Syed Md Saikh Imtiaz also spoke.

DWGS Chairperson Prof Ayesha Banu speaks at a workshop at the Brac Centre Inn Auditorium in the city yesterday. On her right is DWGS Founder Chair Prof Najma Choudhury. PHOTO: STAR