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SOAS Bangabandhu Lecture: Progress on women empowerment at amazing pace

Ansar Ahmed Ullah:

Prof Sohela Nazneen said Bangladesh has made remarkable progress at an amazing pace on women empowerment. She was speaking at the Second Annual Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Lecture 2019 on 7 March at the Wolfson Theatre, SOAS University of London organised by the 7th March Foundation and SOAS South Asia Institute, University of London

The Lecture titled ‘Contentious Empowerment?: Women as Agents of Change in Bangladesh’ was presented by Prof Sohela Nazneen, Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex.

The Lecture was chaired by Prof Edward Simpson of South Asia Institute, SOAS who in his welcome & introductory remarks said, ‘We are pleased to announce the second Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Annual Lecture 2019 and to celebrate the first anniversary of a very successful partnership between South Asia Institute and the 7th March Foundation.’  He introduced Prof Sohela Nazneen saying Bangladesh was born out of twenty five years of struggle and one of the most brutal Liberation War in 1971. In less than half a century Bangladesh has made remarkable progress in many spheres of lives of its citizens including women’s empowerment. Whilst Bangladesh’s achievements in empowering women is highly commendable, we believe that there are much more to be done whereby women of all background will be able to enjoy the full benefit of citizenship of the republic as a matter of rights and not charity. Thereby making gender equality and women’s empowerments truly meaningful.

Prof Sohela Nazneen in her keynote speech explored women’s political and economic empowerment. She said Bangladesh has achieved remarkable progress on some fronts including gender disparities in education, labour participation, maternal mortality reduction and entering national parliament & local government. In her presentation she further explored role played by women in making changes happen and women’s movement negotiating state, national & international actors to secure gender equality.  Prof Sohela Nazneen highlighted both achievements as well as barriers to gender equality and women’s empowerments in Bangladesh from a historical, regional and international perspectives. However, she also pointed out how national and regional economic and political shifts may positively or adversely influence the choices and pathways for Bengali women to advance their interests and change the future. Vote of thanks was given by Nooruddin Ahmed, Chairman of 7 March Foundation who said this was the Second Lecture following the inaugural Lecture which took place last year to commemorate a momentous day in the history of Bengali-speaking people in Bangladesh and the diaspora. However, the life and work of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Rahman are little known outside Bangladesh particularly in the West. Therefore, the aim of these Lectures are to promote the life and work of the founding father of the independent and secular stae of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.