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Thursday, February 21, 2013
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Women in forefront

Along with men, a large number of women are seen at the forefront of the demonstrations in Shahbagh in the capital Tuesday night. Some say that such extraordinary participation of women in a demonstration is first in Bangladesh. Photo: Focus Bangla

Go to the protest venue, and they are everywhere.

Not to be outdone by the generations of women before them who have been at the forefront of the anti-British movement, Liberation War and the anti-autocratic movement, the young women of today have refused to take a backseat in the country's renewed struggle to redefine itself.

Perhaps it is only fitting that the movement has, at its inspiration, the great Bangalee writer and political activist, Shaheed Janani Jahanara Imam. Her larger-than-life portrait stands tall, as if presiding over the Shahbagh movement and inspiring the young generation to carry the torch she lit in her lifetime.

From day one of the mass movement, women have made their presence felt at Shahbagh -- as organisers, planners, volunteers, cultural activists, journalists and participants. Their strong, determined voice and spirited attendance have indeed invigorated the demonstrators at Projonmo Square and elsewhere in the country.

The fiery slogans of Lucky Akhtar have stirred hundreds of thousands of souls in chanting slogans in unison, day and night.

Already an icon of the protest, Lucky is a final-year student of English at Jagannath University and social welfare secretary of the leftist student group, Chhatra Union. Her active involvement has made her a target of Jamaat-Shibir and their allies, who have threatened her and her family repeatedly, opened offensive pages and produced derogatory propaganda to abuse her.

Lucky, however, maintains that nothing can keep her from Shahbagh. “They cannot scare me with their petty tactics.”

On the nonstop movement that began on February 5 demanding capital punishment to all the war criminals, she says: “It is really inspiring to see the spontaneous participation of women at Shahbagh. Even the women who used to run in the opposite direction when they saw rallies are now chanting slogans and staying day and night at Shahbagh.

“Young girls from remote areas are rising up, giving slogans and leading the movement in their own villages.”

Hundreds of women like Lucky have been the life-force of the movement and have been shaping it, giving it strength and sustenance.

Monti Bosnab, a cultural activist, has made Shahbagh intersection her home for the last two weeks, singing rebellious songs on the stage and motivating the protesters. Fellow organisers say she cannot be dragged out of Shahbagh even for a few minutes' rest.

Aninda Saha, another cultural activist, has fainted twice during the protest, but refused to go home. She is among those who have been leading the slogans.

"So why not take some rest?"

Monti smiles at the question, and says: "We will rest when our demand for justice is met.

“The mass awakening is not confined to Shahbagh alone. We are seeing that large numbers of women are taking a lead and speaking out. They are challenging oppression. We hope they will be able to raise their voices to demand and establish their own rights as well,” says Monti.

According to Joinab Binte Hossain, a blogger from Bloggers and Online Activists Network, mass awakening is not possible without the active participation of women. “Women like Pritilata, Begum Rokeya and Sufia Kamal have led the way for women's emancipation. We are only following in their footsteps.”

In a country where the public sphere is dominated by the male, women and girls at Shahbagh have found a safe space for themselves. Many have been staying all night on the streets, without having to face any problems.

“Except for a few stray incidents, we have not faced any threats or felt insecure,” says Sheuli Shaha, a student activist. “Our parents too, even the ones who are otherwise conservative, have supported our decisions to be here."

According to Lucky, it is an admirable feat that women are staying at Shahbagh till two or three in the morning.

“Their safety and security has not been threatened, and they have felt like they are an active part of this movement. This can go a long way towards ensuring women's emancipation,” she says.

Ridma Jahan, a protester, said, “I really want to thank the men who have been supportive and respectful towards women at Shahbagh. But at the same time, I want to address the handful of men who insult the spirit of Shahbagh by poking and staring at women and I tell them to learn to respect women."

Girls and young women in school and college uniforms have flocked to Shahbagh in their hundreds. “People used to say that the youth are apathetic, that we don't care about anything. The youths at Shahbagh have proved them wrong,” says Sima, a student of Viqarunnisa Noon School and College.

“I hope that the movement for a better Bangladesh doesn't stop at Shahbagh. I hope it continues till we build the country we all dream of,” she adds.

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According to all religious women shouldn't open their hairs in public. Please suggest our sisters, aunties, daughters to keep hidden their hairs. Let us maintain the morality of human being.

: Rana

A rare moment of pride- definitely the girl power is vital for any movement and social progress. The performances of the young girls adds more to the rich culture and tradition. This is exactly what frightens the religious bigots- they want to suppress the 50% of our human capital. Enlightenment in general is a threat to the religious bigots. The spirit and enthusiasm of these enlightened freedom lovers is a source of inspiration for all including we who belong to a generation before.

: Masudur Rahman

Comments

  • Nabarun Dey
    Thursday, February 21, 2013 08:51 AM GMT+06:00 (123 weeks ago)

    In 1952, men created history. This time let the women create another. Bravo Lucky, Monti and Aninda. Keep it up. We in India adore you as much as your fellow country men and women.

  • Anonymous k
    Thursday, February 21, 2013 12:51 AM GMT+06:00 (123 weeks ago)

    Shahbagh has taught us a lot in the last 16 days and we should salute the spirit of our young generation. It is time for our politicians to learn from them and make the finishing touch. Let our two ladies declare their retirement and give the leadership to the future generation. We, the people, will honour their sacrifices and services for this nation with gratitude and respect from the core of our hearts. Let the freedom from oppression, inequality and injustice ring from the Shahbagh square, from the hills and mountains of Chittagong and Sylhet, from the paddy fields of the northern districts and last but not the least, let the freedom ring from the waves of Padma, Meghna and Jumana.

  • Labu Khan
    Thursday, February 21, 2013 02:17 AM GMT+06:00 (123 weeks ago)

    Such extraordinary participation of women in a demonstration is first in Bangladesh...

  • mohammed farman ullah bhuiyan
    Thursday, February 21, 2013 02:31 AM GMT+06:00 (123 weeks ago)

    Dear sisters, I respect you all from the core of my heart but you must know how to keep yourselves respectful. You have your own rights but you joined a demonstration where there are different types of men. For your own individuality you could do it separately. After all you are raising your voice against war criminals but now the bloggers and other political opportunists are diverting this demonstration against Islam and hurting the sentiments of common people, which can result in a very tough situation in Bangladesh. So be careful about your position and be in safe side. You should not talk against any religion rather you should talk against any kind of crime and corruption. Remember, Islam gives you the highest and supreme respect that can be ever seen in any other religions or beliefs.

  • barkat
    Thursday, February 21, 2013 02:45 AM GMT+06:00 (123 weeks ago)

    As per the Home Ministry report in last four years there were more than 50,000 reported attacks on women in Bangladesh. There were many more which went unreported. Will the women in Shahbagh demand for their justice too? Or do these women are of less importance than those of 1971?

  • A concerned observer
    Thursday, February 21, 2013 02:45 AM GMT+06:00 (123 weeks ago)

    They must be there. They are the one who would be first target of the Islamist rule. Just remember 'Malala' of Pakistan, how the Taliban attempted to kill her because she was for fundamental rights of women.

    How one can differentiate between the Taliban and the Jamaat-e-Islam and its student wing-Shibir?

  • Mohammed Shah Alam Khan from Ottawa, Canada
    Thursday, February 21, 2013 03:02 AM GMT+06:00 (123 weeks ago)

    I would like to mention about Lucky Akhtar, a final year student in English. Her active involvement has made her a target of Jamaat-Shibir and their allies, who have threatened her and her family repeatedly, opened offensive pages and produced derogatory propaganda to abuse her.

    This is a very true; on this news what can we say, are the Jamaat people Muslims?

  • Firko
    Thursday, February 21, 2013 08:16 AM GMT+06:00 (123 weeks ago)

    Jamaat does not like women on the forefront of the movement. Jamaat believes nearly what Talibans believe in Afganistan and Pakistan. We need to free our country from the hands of the Talibanised people. For this, the movement should not be only in Shahbagh. It should be throughout every city and town of the country.

  • Shihab
    Thursday, February 21, 2013 09:31 AM GMT+06:00 (123 weeks ago)

    It is true that women should go hand in hand with men in all spheres of life for overall development of the country, but we should remember that Muslim women must wear hijabs when they go out and perform prayer at the time of prayer where ever they are. This is a duty prescribed by Allah. To carry out Allah's order is primary and to serve the country is the secondary. Mashallah many ladies are seen wearing hijabs. When we obey Allah's orders, then Allah will be with us.


 

 


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