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     Volume 4 Issue 37 | March 11, 2005 |

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A Finnish


This is in response to the important and awakening cover story "Life Limited". Your article highlights many issues why I am forever thankful having been born in Finland. While growing up I never knew the difference of being a girl or a boy but was brought up as an individual who can and should be all that s/he can be. While growing up it actually rather seemed to be easier to be one of the girls who were most of the time better at school, were more outgoing and responsible than the boys and stayed close to their families even after getting married, whereas the boys followed their wives…. We read children's books with inspiring girl characters that were smart and in charge and never expected anything less from life. Today's Finland, in addition to having a woman head of the state, has one of the highest percentages of females in the workforce and in the legislation which can be seen in the largest scale of social services in the world made available to the whole nation.

After coming to Bangladesh at the end of 1998, I have seen the other side of the coin on the other side of the world. I know I am back in Bangladesh when I start seeing streets full of men. Offices I have worked at were always full of men, classes I taught have been full of men and schools where my sons attend have a majority of boys. I have nothing against men but one can't help wondering where the girls are? Though I know a compassionate mother-in-law, a couple of aspiring career women with supportive better halves and many bright young girls with stars in their eyes, I have mainly seen young women entering the work life to exit it soon again at the arrival of their wedding date or birth of a child. That is wonderful if it is their choice and nobody else's. I myself stayed at home for the most of the first years of both my children.

In Finland we rely on public kindergartens and husbands, our own mothers and friends when struggling with career and family after the 10-month-80%-paid-maternity/paternity-leave -- notice that we are so equal that we allow the daddies to opt for this one as well. It is hard work when our mothers typically work as well and government provides financial incentives for part-time work or "work at home". Bangladeshi girls are in a blessed position with a handful of help sitting around them; mothers, mother-in-laws, aunties, sisters and carefully chosen domestic help. Now it is the choice of all the women in Bangladesh to help to empower women by starting it at home with their sons, daughters and daughter-in-laws. Boys are brought up with ever swelling heads that almost trip them over. I have never seen such blatant egotism in men here and it is the women who bring them up!

Young girls need encouragement and positive, strong female role models from books and real life to help them reach the stars. Let your daughters and daughter-in-laws keep on dreaming and allow them to grow to their full potential by giving them your support in education and professional aspirations. The same goes to the family's chosen son-in-laws or the former boyfriends who became husbands to continue the love and support you had for her when she initially chose to go with you. You would not want your dream-girl to turn into a frustrated nagging wife, would you? Obviously there is still a lot of work to be done in the society and institutions in general but we all can start by changing our attitudes about working-women and giving them the respect they reserve at home and at the streets they must conquer. By allowing a wider participation of women across the various sectors of the economy can only have constructive consequences to your beloved motherland. At least to me, a pen looks a lot prettier in a woman's hand than a row of bangles.

I myself have not been blessed with girls but I plan to grow up my sons as I would my daughters.

Mirka Kristiina Rahman is Assistant Professor of BRAC University.

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