Mass Assembly Supports New Policy to Empower Women in Bangladesh

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On April 28, 2011, the National Girl Child Advocacy Forum (NGCAF) joined hands with the Shamajik Protirodh Committee and attended a Mass Assembly in front of the Central Shahid Minar in capital city Dhaka as a follow up to the human chain demonstration two weeks prior. Some 67 forums, groups and organizations, represented by nearly 7,000 women and men, participated in this assembly of similar minds. The congregation was arranged to create mass awareness about the National Women’s Development Policy (NWDP) 2011 and to demand its immediate enforcement.

The NWDP gives women equal political and economic rights as men through benefits like social security, ensuring the enactment of laws to reduce violence against women, and addressing their health and nutrition needs. The NWDP advocates removing discrimination of all kinds against women.

In addition to fighting for the rights of women, both the Assembly and Human Chain demonstrations aim to oppose those who had misinterpreted the policy and called for a national strike against it. The controversy around the policy is that some believe that it goes against the Islamic religion, a notion that demonstrators oppose, stating that the Quran conveys equality and self-esteem for all men and women.

Speakers from various organizations and members of civil groups spoke at the Assembly, declaring that the policy seeks to establish equal rights for women and to ensure security in all aspects of women’s lives. It is aimed at developing an educated and skilled workforce of women that could contribute to the Bangladeshi economy.

Nasima Akhter Joly, Secretary of NGCAF, attended the event as a representative of the forum and of The Hunger Project-Bangladesh. She utilized her moment in front of the microphone to speak about issues close to her heart. She said that the NWDP addresses the development of girl children (section 18 of the 23 section policy speaks directly about the rights of girl children) and insisted that the empowerment of women cannot exist without discussing the betterment of the lives of girl children. Nasima noted that the implementation of the policy would be a key step toward ensuring better opportunities for girl children and women in general.

The National Women’s Development Policy is the result of a 30-year struggle fought by and for the women of Bangladesh.

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