Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 4, Issue 9, Tuesday March 06, 2007



Special Feature

It's reigning women

In a world where prehistoric notions and age old stereotypes still exist, the Hillaries and the Oprahs and now even the Arundhatis are carving out a place (not a niche, mind you) for themselves. Women are no longer taking a backseat to their male counterparts. Time and time again, they are proving that not only can they talk the talk and walk the walk, in many cases, they can do it better. And on that same note, Bangladeshi women, the legacies of visionaries like Begum Rokeya are making names for themselves too. Times have changed. It is no longer limited to saying “behind every man's success lies a woman,” when it is women who are snatching success for their taking.

Maybe a Hillary or two in future

Let's look at the obvious: Bangladeshi politics. In a country that bounces between two ladies, what more can one say about female dominance? Let's not kid ourselves by saying that they have snatched success for their taking. If anything they have snatched whatever they can for their own benefit. That's beside the point. But credit must be given where it is due. These two ladies (although with the aid of their father or husband) have certainly swum against the tide and made a place for themselves in a political field that is dominated by men. Their presence has certainly encouraged young women to yearn for a political career, and many young university going women have even become student activists. All they need now is proper guidance. While our two leading ladies have done nothing but cripple the system, the very fact that they've actually led the country, gives young women the hope that, in future, we too might have our own Indiras and Hillaries.

The Elle Woods of Bangladesh

In a country that calls itself the People's Republic of Bangladesh, but still follows male dominated Islamic laws (e.g. property laws) and has no laws in favour of Hindu women, women lawyers have certainly fought and triumphed to fight for our cause. Be it through private practice or through working for NGOs and voluntary services, the Elle Woods of Bangladesh are certainly lending their voices to scores of underprivileged women. Whether it is marriage for dowry, rape, acid violence or simply the basic practice of law, female lawyers are making a huge leap in when it comes to the bar.

Giving the gift of knowledge

While scruffy old men seem to rule the lecture halls in university, if you trace back through your life to preschool, you'll see that for most of your life, you have probably been taught by women. Call it a clichéd choice for the average Bangladeshi woman, but if you did an overall count of the education system, chances are that you will probably find a sky soaring number of women who teach. Whether it is an ability to be soft spoken but firm at the same time or a super human amount of patience for some, women have certainly excelled in the field of teaching. Preschools, schools, colleges and universities: you name it and they have taken over! After all what could be more gratifying than giving the gift of knowledge?

Catering to the masses

While male chefs might be taking the country by storm, when the lunch bell rings and thousands of office workers drop everything to satisfy that little monster called hunger, what they generally get delivered to their offices are meals catered by women. From the decades old tiffin delivery system that still remains to the now more modern take on having fancy buffets catered, small time women entrepreneurs are certainly making extraordinary leaps in the food business.

Leave the beautiful to the beautiful

When it comes to the beauty business, leave the beautiful to the beautiful. Female beauticians, hairdressers, make-up artists and stylists have forged in as a united league and taken over the beauty business by force. There is a renowned set of such artists who have become local brands, and a quick glimpse at their appointment books will tell you that they reign. And these very talented women aren't simply pulling things out of a hat. They are actually taking the time to study the field of cosmetics and hairstyling so that they know exactly what to do. So with a studied background and a natural knack for beauty, is there any doubt as to why female beauticians are the rulers of the trade?

In a society that still sadly believes in the whole “weaker sex” school of thought, it is refreshing to see that so many women are breaking the clichés and reigning in their particular fields of expertise. So ladies, pour yourselves a tall one and raise those glasses for a toast. You've most certainly earned it!

By Tahiat-e-Mahboob
Photo: Amirul Rajiv

Models: Jakia Khatun (90) Great Great Grandmother of Sanjana Maria Kabir, fluent in Bangla, Persian and Urdu and still reads the newspaper and watches news on TV. Nurjahan Bhuiyan (67) Great Grandmother of Sanjana Maria Kabir, Advisor of a human rights organisation in Feni. Sultana Meher Chisty (45) Grandmother of Sanjana Maria Kabir, Editor and Publisher, Bangladesh Trade Catalogue, Chairperson, SUNSketch. Sultana Shahrier Kabir (26) Mother of Sanjana Maria Kabir, Administrative Manager of Dedar Development Limited. Sanjana Maria Kabir (3), to be admitted in Playgroup.


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