In 2000, the United Nations and its 183 member states at the time committed to eight international development goals known as Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to be met within 15 years. Women empowerment has emerged as one of the major issues of development and, in an effort to meet the MDGs and reduce global poverty, countries are more aggressively responding to gender and women issues. An example of such a country is Bangladesh, where women empowerment has increasingly become a heavy topic.
Bangladesh is a developing country with a population of 140 million, over 50% of which is comprised of women. Despite constituting half the country’s population, women in Bangladesh are bound by social constraints and have been victims of religious prejudices, male oppressions, and various other kinds of discriminations. With the implementation of the MDGs, there has been an increase in the interest in women issues and attempts made by the state and other agencies in promoting the development of women in the country.
Although there have been notable improvements in many spheres, the current examination of the empowerment of Bangladeshi women advocates for a surface-level change in women’s lives rather than an institutional change which accommodates women empowerment. Therefore, I would like to propose an alternative framework to define and analyze women empowerment and then evaluate Bangladesh’s progress and challenges within that scope.
Redefining women’s empowerment as an increase in agency (“the expansion in people’s ability to make strategic life choices where this ability was previously denied to them”) over time, this presentation will focus primarily on gender-based violence and how efforts to reduce violence simultaneously promote efforts to empower women. I will specifically analyze violence reduction efforts by BRAC, an international NGO based in Bangladesh. BRAC has developed a comprehensive intervention model to address violence against women and children (VAWC); the model consists of prevention, protection, and economic and social reintegration of survivors. Drawing on my personal experience from working on BRAC’s VAWC projects, I will explore how their methods can be replicated in not just developing countries, but in the global fight for women empowerment.
Neelema Ahmed, ’16
Colorado Springs, CO
Sponsor: A’amer Farooqi