Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 57, Tuesday March 3, 2009


anything you can do….

Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviour, activities and attributes that a particular society considers appropriate for men and women.

The distinct roles and behaviour may give rise to gender inequalities, i.e. differences between men and women that systematically favour one group. In turn, such inequalities can lead to inequities between men and women…

Society has a way for things. It tends to determine typecast, a social blueprint that chalks our action and behaviour. While determining 'gender' society takes into account the biological attributes of men and women and make clichés for social interaction.

Women have been traditionally attributed the position of a homemaker, a role which today we find many women play with great success. Yet, there are those who crave to break free from the social stereotype and venture into avenues hitherto tread only by men.

A gender sensitive atmosphere is one that understands the needs of women, biological and social, and enables them to stand out as an individual in society without prejudice or stigma.

It is a fallacy that certain professions are best suited for women while others are not. Although women have excelled in professions like nursing, medicine, teaching and such, corporate Bangladesh has now exemplarily proven that women can venture into other professions beyond the stereotypes.

Today, we have women in fields of science, engineering, arts, business and the media; managing these responsibilities with great prowess. Women are known to juggle between their professional and domestic roles.

It is wrong to believe that men and women are equal in all respects. The biological differences alone give rise to significant distinctions and needs between the two sexes. But it is the right of women as human beings and merely not as females that constitute the principles of gender sensitivity.

“We have a misconception that women 'can't do'. We must break away from the image that certain professions are not suited for women, while others are 'meant' for them. In the last few years, women have excelled in the media as reporters, editors and presenters; all professions that even recently were considered 'unsuitable' for them.

“In corporate Bangladesh, we must first break the discrepancy in recruitment that exists in many industries. There should be an atmosphere where the same opportunities exist for climbing the hierarchy. It is essential that women be allowed time for capacity building. With time, provided that a common ground exists between men and women, they can prove their proficiency with conviction,” says Rina Roy, Director, Rights, Manusher Jonno Foundation.

“The road towards being gender sensitive starts from a very personal level. We must first learn to empathise with the women in our lives. The subject must be addressed in discussions at formal as well as personal level. School curriculum must also address the subject, which will ensure that the seed of gender sensitivity is sown at an early age,” says Roy.

In Bangladesh, women now comprise a significant section of the workforce. Industries like readymade garments boast a high percentage of female workers. Besides, the 'conventional' sectors, women are also part of the army, police and other armed forces. They keep no stones unturned to prove their ability. They are all set to prove, that they 'can do'.

By Mannan Mashhur Zarif
Photo: Sayeed Siddiqui and Sazzad Ibne Sayed
Special thanks to Rina Roy, Manusher Jonno Foundation.

On A Different Note

Observe the way children interact in a school playground. You'll find the boys squabbling over a toy, or fighting over points in football. There might be a few scuffles, a heated word or two, but as long as the game is on, everyone's friends. A 'geek' may instantly win popularity by scoring an unexpected goal, or making a difficult catch. It all hinges on prowess.

Friendships amongst girls aren't quite so straightforward. Even as little children, they quickly adopt a knack for politicking, and many of us would trip on the invisible, and intricate web of rules they follow.

Be it a friendship, or the bond between mother and daughter, or the dynamics between sisters, relationships between women are always rather complex, and have fascinated authors around the globe. On women's day, if you're in the mood for some chicklit, check out these reads:

The Divine Secrets of the Ya-ya Sisterhood
The movie may have bombed, but the book is one you'll keep coming back to. A young writer invokes her mother's wrath by painting a less than flattering portrait of her in an autobiographical novel. The mother's quirky posse of gal-pals, who call themselves the 'Ya-ya Sisterhood' attempt to mend the breach, and both mother and daughter learn things about each other they never knew. This is a story about love and loss, and a friendship that defies all obstacles.

The Hindi-Bindi Club
Three Indian women leave their homes to settle in the Land of Opportunity, trying to adjust to the new way of life, each trying to escape a dark past. Years pass, and each has a daughter struggling to understand her dual identity. Mothers and daughters both must face their deepest fears in order to discover themselves and truly be free.

The book is a light-hearted take on the dilemmas of the Indian diaspora, focusing on the generation gap between the first and second generation of immigrants, and only superficially touching cultural and political issues such as communalism, caste segregation and social taboos. A spicy read.

Joy Luck Club
Now adapted into a heart-warming film, this is yet another book that explores the tender and tenacious bond between four Chinese immigrant women and their daughters. The daughters see their mothers as they are now, but they don't know about the never-spoken-of lives in China. The mothers want love and obedience from their daughters, but they don't know the gifts that the daughters keep to themselves. Touchingly bittersweet, this is a novel for mother, daughters, and friends and family.

Two sisters fight for the love of one man. Their estrangement rips a family apart as they are flung far across the globe, away from each other. A decade later, a final summons from the matriarch of the family bring them face to face and the old feud resurfaces. This is sibling rivalry at its most extreme, and also explores the themes of cultural stereotypes.

Arranged Marriages
Wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend…a woman wears many hats, and Chitra B Divakaruni goes browsing the entire rack in this sparkling collection of short stories. Treading a wide range of emotions, this book has something for every mood.

By Sabrina F Ahmad


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