Community perception towards empowerment of rural women31 October 2021
Dr. Matiur Rahman :
Empowerment of women is a process through which women in general and poor women in particular get the opportunity to join the workforce, contribute to family income, and have dignity, recognition and place in family as well as in society. The empowerment of women is an essential precondition for the elimination of poverty and for upholding of human rights, in particular at the individual level, it helps building a base for social change.
In Bangladesh, women constitute about half of the total population of which 80 percent live in rural areas. It is a well-established fact that in a patriarchal society like Bangladesh, women ascribe a lower status as men who have the sovereign power to control households and society as a whole, while women are often secluded in their homes.
Keeping in mind the above context a study revealed the perception of community people both male and female towards empowerment of rural women on some issuesat household level. For the present study to assess the empowerment some indicators were set. Opinion was sought out from both the male and female respondents.
The study explored that although at present women are working in different sectors outside the home but majority of our society people believe the traditional view that home is the only work place for women in our society. Only male is fit for work outside the home. So, women who go to work outside the home have to face many awful situations. In the present study this fact has also been explored. According to the data majority of the male respondents (61.2%) in the study villages admitted that female member of their household cannot work outside for earning. On the other hand, around half (75.6%) of the female respondents have reported that they cannot work outside the home alone or independently.
Rural women cannot spend money indecently. As they cannot earn the money so male do not allow them to spend it. If any women earn money by working outside the home she cannot spend the money without the permission of her parents or husband. In the present study, around 70.6 percent of the male respondents told that though women earn money working outside the home- they cannot spend their earning without the permission of their husbands or male members of the household. On the other hand, about half (49.4%) of the female respondents have reported that they cannot spend their earning according to their choice.
Having land property is a major indicator of empowerment. But in rural society most of the women do not possess any land till their parents or husband alive. Male always possess the ownership of land. In the present research it has been found that around 76.4 percent of male respondents in the villages have reported that women in the household possessed no land. On the other hand, around 80 per cent of female respondents in both the villages have reported the same.
Like land ownership women in our rural society do not possess homestead or house. At the child and adulthood they brought up in their parents' house and after marriage they have to spend their life in their husband's house. It is the traditional social custom. From the present study it has been found that majority of the male respondents (80%) have admitted that women in their household possessed no house or homestead. On the other hand, 84.7 percent of the female respondents have admitted that they do not possess any house or homestead.
To get equal wage is a right for every woman. But in most of the cases majority of the Bangladeshi women workers do not get equal wage like their male counterpart. In the present research, majority of the male respondents (80%) for the study villages have reported that women as usually do not get equal wage like their male counterpart. On the other hand, 81.2 per cent of the female respondents have opined the same.
As most of the women in our society do not have own income source so they cannot take medical treatment whenever they get sick. They have to rely on their parents or husband for treatment. Moreover, majority of the women cannot afford to go to the medical center alone due to lack of capacity of dealing with service provider in the center. Also, some social and religious beliefs hinder women to go outside. In the present research more than half (57.3%) of the male respondents have told that women were not allowed to go to the medical center for treatment independently. On the other hand, a slightly over half (52.9%) of the female respondents have told that they can go to the medical center for treatment alone / independently.
In our country participation of women in development activities is limited. Mostly, male are the main actor to determine the development activities. For the present research a large majority of the male respondents (80%) in the study villages reported that women cannot participate in the development activities. On the other hand, around 88.2 percent of the female respondents have reported the same.
In rural society women cannot participate in the arbitration system. It is the belief or tradition that doing 'Shalish' (a non-formal court where village leaders mitigate disputes) or judgment is the duty of men. Women do not have sufficient efficiency to do this. A major portion (90.6%) of the male respondents in the present research opined that women are not allowed to participate in the local arbitration system or judgment process. On the other hand around 92 percent of the female respondents mentioned the same.
Women sometimes become victims of discrimination in arbitration in our society. It is a belief that women are weak and they cannot protest. So, they become victim of discrimination. In the present research around one-fifth (20%) of the male respondents in the study villages have reported that women sometimes became victims of discrimination in the village arbitration. On the other hand more than half (57.6%) of the female respondents have reported the same.
Man usually takes decision regarding the marriage of son or daughter at household level. Women has limited or no right to take such decision in our society. More than half (64.7%) of the male respondents in the present study have reported that women of their household cannot participate in marriage related discussion. Around same portion of the female respondents has also reported the same.
Dowry is also a social problem in our society. This traditional custom is very disgraceful in many stages in our country. Failure to give dowry sometimes creates many problems in one's conjugal life. It is the indicator of less empowerment of women in our society. In the present research about half (48.2%) of the male respondents have admitted that dowry giving in marriage in the society is still prevailing. On the other hand, more than two-third (68.2%) of the female respondents have admitted that dowry giving in marriage in the society is still prevailing.
Nowadays many women can participate in the Samity (micro-credit group) and social activities. But till now majority of them cannot do it. In the present research about 82.4 percent male respondents have told that women did not get chance to participate in the traditional institution based social activities. On the other hand, about 64.7 percent female respondents have told that they cannot participate in the traditional institution based social activities.
So, it has proved that in rural areas male attitude towards female women empowerment is still negative. Male always dominant over female on various issues at the household and community level. On the basis of the above findings the study suggested that appropriate measures should to be taken to change structural, social attitudes and beliefs that legitimize male dominance over women. Educational institutes, mass media campaigns, street drama, etc. can play an important role in this regard. NGOs and government organizations also can take different programs to change male attitude and to make them aware about women empowerment in rural areas. There is a need to involve civil society, religious leaders in this regard.
Though Bangladesh has made remarkable progress in women advancement but women in rural areas are still in backward in some cases like empowerment at household and community level issues. The misperception of male about female is still prevailing. It is suggested to provide appropriate training and motivation to men for changing their attitude to women. Beside women and girls will have to be given the necessary skill, training, education and employment opportunities so that they are capable of supporting themselves and make their own decisions beside their male counterpart. To bring meaningful social changes in rural areas, development and improved quality of life both rural men and women should get equal opportunities and positions adding each other in every sphere of life.
(Dr. Matiur Rahman is Research Consultant, Human Development Research Centre, Dhaka).