Bangladeshi women are coming out successful as professionals by making it to the top in their fields with their courage and dedication fighting against discrimination and other challenges of a patriarchal society.
Despite the gains women have made in education over the past few years and an increasing number of qualified female candidates, they are still underrepresented in top positions and higher administration, but some of them are making a difference.
Six successful women from the fields of literature, corporate, engineering, sports, teaching and even train driving, while talking with New Age in the first week of March, said that they reached to their current position as families had encouraged them though in some cases the society did not saw their efforts positively.
Litterateur Selina Hossain, multinational company Berger Paints Bangladesh managing director Rupali Chowdhury, first-ever female Roads and Highways Department additional chief engineer Rowshan Ara Khanom, one of 50 Global Teachers Prise winners Shahanaj Parvin, country’s first female train driver Salma Khatun and Bangladesh women’s cricket team captain Rumana Ahmed urged women to make strong place in the society remaining focused and dedicated to their profession.
Shahanaj, Salma and Rumana said that they had faced social barriers to building carriers.
‘The patriarchal society is huge challenge for women’s development in our country’ said Selina Hossain, a popular female writer in Bangladesh.
Her works account for the contemporary social crises and conflicts as well as the recurrent cycles of the life of the struggling masses. She is a relentless worker
for women’s advancement, particularly on gender equality and women’s empowerment in Bangladesh.
Some of her works have been selected as textbook at different universities of the Unites States and India.
Selina Hossain is set to receive one of the country’s highest civilian awards, Independence Award, on March 25 for her contribution to literature. She received Ekushey Padak in 2009 and SAARC Literary Award from Foundation of SAARC Writers and Literature in 2015.
Selina Hossain, also the Bangladesh Shishu Academy chairperson, started her chequered carrier in 1969 with her first story book Utsa Theke Nirantar. She has so far authored 41 novels, 15 collections of short stories, 35 pieces of juvenile literature and several collections of essays.
Completing master’s from Rajshahi University, Selina joined Bangla Academy in 1970 and retired as its director in 2004.
‘After joining the Bangla Academy, I decided to focus on writing,’ Selina said, adding that she missed no chance of writing and made time for writing besides household work and rearing children.
‘I did not misuse my time, even wrote sending children to play and after they slept at night,’ she said.
‘I am lucky enough that I have got support from the family, but there are many others who have not got the support. Many women still do not get the support,’ said Selina.
Rupali Chowdhury said that she got support from her own family and in-laws.
She started her career with multinational pharmaceutical and chemical company Ciba Geigy (Bangladesh) Limited in 1984 and later moved to Berger Paints Bangladesh Limited in 1990 as planning manager.
After serving in various departments like marketing, sales, distribution, planning and systems under different supervisory capacities, Rupali was promoted to the position of managing director of the company in January 2008.
She is also the managing director of Jenson and Nicholson (Bangladesh) Limited, a subsidiary of Berger Paints, and director of Berger Becker Bangladesh Limited, a joint venture between Berger Paints Bangladesh Limited and Becker Industrial Coatings Holding AB Sweden.
Rupali is a Commercially Important Person and immediate past president of Foreign Investors’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry for consecutive two terms between 2013 to 2017.
Like any other woman, she faced some struggle at the beginning of her carrier.
‘Acting the role of a mother, a wife, a daughter-in-law was challenging. At the same time children were infants. It is the time of beginning for many,’ she said.
‘I have seen many women to leave jobs and professional life at this juncture of life,’ she said.
‘Mentality of the society regarding women’s work is changing. Middle class is now keener on work and profession of their girl children,’ she observed.
‘Garments industry is pioneer in the case of creating scope for work for women from villages,’ Rupali said.
She said that she reached the top position of the multinational company as she had always stuck to her duties. ‘I like to carry out responsibilities with due diligence and passion,’ she said.
When comes the question of passion for work, Roads and Highways Department additional chief engineer Rowshan Ara Khanom is another champion example.
She said that she used to visit bridge sites at places with her baby.
‘I take my lesson at BUET with public money. I always consider that I will work for the country not only for my families as I need to repay the people,’ Rowshan said.
She is only the female among the 21 engineers at the department with the status of additional chief engineer. The department has 40 female engineers among about 500 engineers.
‘As my job demands visits to sites of bridges frequently, it is challenging for me,’ she said, adding, ‘even a slightest fault of a woman is seen as a big issue in our country.’
Bangladesh’s first female locomotive master or train driver Salma Khatun said that when she started to drive train some people on the platforms often used to make rude comments even some people threw stones at the train.
‘Situation has started to improve slowly but still is not safe for a woman,’ Salma said.
She joined the railway as assistant locomotive master in 2004 and became the lone female train driver in August 2017. She is now driving Diesel Electric Multiple Unit – DEMU train – on Dhaka-Tongi-Dhaka route for five days a week.
She said that she had gone through a nerve-wrecking moments but her dedication and strong will helped her to reach the current position. ‘It is challenging and industrious job to run a train. I need to keep in mind the safety of my passengers,’ she said.
Women cricket team captain and all-rounder Rumana said that when she started playing cricket as a school student in 2008, her neighbours did not take it positively. ‘But, my father used to say that one day I would bring honour for all,’ said Rumana, a right-arm batter and leg spinner having highest runs and wickets against her name in the women ODIs for the country.
She made debut in ODIs in 2011 and T20s in 2012. She was made captain of the team in November 2016.
She is the lone Bangladeshi to earn the only hat-trick in ODI.
She expressed concern about less payment of women cricketers.
When cricketers usually struggle to concentrate on education Rumana is different. She is a bachelor student in English at a private university. The first Bangladeshi woman to play in Australian domestic T20 league, Big Bash, Rumana has become role model for many promising women cricketers.
‘After playing Big Bash in Australia, I see how much women cricketers are lagging behind the male cricketers in terms of grounds and practice facilities,’ Rumana said.
Sherpur Upazila Sadar Model Government Primary School assistant teacher Shahanaj Parvin is creating education facilities for poor working students and children with disabilities at two schools – primary and secondary – founded with her own money and community donations.
Shahanaj faced economic hardship and forced into an early marriage but persevered with her education. After beginning the carrier, she started to work against child marriage and dropout from schools.
‘When I started to work for the poor and working children many dubbed me as lunatic,’ she said, adding that she never gave up her work and gave ear to the comments.
Shahanaj Parvin received Global Teacher Prize 2017 along with 49 others of different countries in 2017 from Verkey Foundation and best national teacher award in 2013.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Country