The participation of ethnic women in their customary institutions empowered with arbitration authority to resolve social and family disputes remained very little over the years, said ethnic community leaders, rights activists and academics.
At an advisory meeting on ‘women participation in indigenous customary institutions in Chittagong Hill Tracts: present scenario and future action’ on Friday, they said the little participation of women in the ethnic minorities’ customary institutions as circle chief, headman and karbari shrunk the scopes of ethnic women getting justice.
Eight women rights organisations worked in CHT jointly organised the consultation meeting at CIRDAP auditorium in Dhaka.
There are some 11 ethnic groups of CHT with their intrinsic customs, traditions, rules, culture and language, said lawyer Sushmita Chakma while giving her keynote presentation.
She said that since 1900, the customary institutions of ethnic minorities in CHT, namely the offices of circle chief, headman and karbari, are empowered with arbitration authorities to settle social and family disputes among them through their customs and traditions.
But the women in the posts of circle chief or king, headman or the head of a group of villages and karbari or head of a village were very little, Sushmita said.
Currently, there are 13 head women against 372 headmen while there are 415 women karbaris against 4,263 male karbaris in three circles of Chakma, Bomang and Mong circles, she said.
For the headman post, she said, the sons of headman get priority to be a headman but there were some head woman too but the number was little and the karbari post had no family quota, but the number of women in that post was also frustrating.
National Human Rights Commission member Banchita Chakma said the women in CHT were the marginalised among the marginalised ethnic communities.
King Sachi Pru Chowdhury of Mong Circle said that the women would have to come forward in the leadership role in the villages and communities.
King Devasish Roy of Chakma Circle said the ethnic communities have opportunity to reform the customary institutions. ‘We have to be positive about the changes to make the customary institution pro-women,’ he said.
Former member of NHRC Nirupa Dewan, Jahangirnagar University anthropology professor Ainun Nahar and CHT affairs ministry additional secretary Roma Rani Roy also addressed the programme.
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