The Changing World of Bangladeshi Women
The 20th century has witnessed a significant change in the lives of the Bangladeshi women through their increased participation in social, economical and political activities. However, it is very essential to understand the nature and impact of this social change on the different aspects of the women's life. “Pathways of Women's Empowerment” a research programme of the Brac Development Institute focuses on this issue and through research and awareness building, tries to find out how women's daily life is positively affected through empowerment. This programme is a part of an international research consortium that started its journey in 1996 with funding from DFID (UK Department for International Development). The consortium has UNIFEM (United Nations Development Fund for Women) as its main partner and five regional hubs all across the world to run the research programmes. The hubs are:
* South Asia: Brac Development Institute of the Brac University carrying out research works in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
* Middle East: Social Research Centre (SRC) of American University, Cairo, carrying out research in Egypt, Palestine and Sudan.
* South America: Nucleus for Interdisciplinary Women's Studies (NEIM) of Salvador Bahia University, Brazil.
* Africa: Centre for Gender Studies and Advocacy (CEGENSA), Ghana University, carrying out research in Ghana, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.
* The Institute of Development Studies at Sussex University, UK acting as the secretariat for the research programme.
Pathways of Women's Empowerment started its research work based on three theoretical aspects namely women's voice, work and bodily integrity, which was later divided into four basic areas Building constituencies for gender justice, Empowering work, Changing narratives of sexuality and Conceptualising empowerment. So far their research has focused on the participation of Muslim women in the cultural history of Bangladesh, women at work, role of women organisation in mobilising resources for women's movement, women and security, effect of media on women and effect of religion on women. In February 2010, with funding from DFID, Brac Development Institute has published a package of booklets highlighting the findings of their research works. The package contains five booklets - “Women Empowerment: Finding a New Way”, introducing the area of work of Pathways of Women's Empowerment and its background, “Women at Work: Expectation and Limitation”, “Women's Movement and Supporting Strategy: An Analysis”, “Media Through Women's Eyes: A Frontier of New Possibility?” and “Women and Religion: A Changing Relationship”.
The booklets present synopsis of the research works focusing mainly on research methodology and findings. The study on women at work shows how women's own likings and expectations, social norms and traditional values, expectation of the immediate family, social security and financial needs influence women's choice of work. The study on women's movement and its strategy uses three major women organisations of the country for case study -- Bangladesh Mohila Porishad, Nari Pakkha, Women for Women focusing mainly on their objective and methods of work. “Media Through Women's Eyes: A Frontier of New Possibility?” breaks women's liberationist prejudice about media's negative impact on women regarding their rights. The study “Women and Religion: A Changing Relationship” has been done on three varied groups of women garment workers, university students and members of Talim/ Tafsirs. Their thoughts on different issues like faith and practice, veil, sexuality, rights and freedom have been presented in the booklet. All the booklets present interesting and new findings on women's perception about their changing environment, which may appeal to various classes of readers staring from social activists, academicians to leisure-readers. This initiative taken by Pathways of Women's Empowerment in sharing their research findings in easy comprehensible terms with the general public deserves appreciation.
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