3606Published on June 14, 2021
From his personal life to his political career, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman always showed the utmost respect and dignity for women. He always considered the valuable opinions of Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib as she inspired Bangabandhu at every stage of his political life.
In 1971, women joined the Liberation War by fighting in the frontline, giving medical cares to the injured freedom fighters, giving the freedom fighters various information and sending their men to the war. In addition, they had been the victims of rapes and repressions by the Pakistani military forces and their local collaborators. So, Bangabandhu termed the victims as ‘Birangana’ in 1972 and ensured all state facilities to help the women who suffered social prejudices due to being rape victims. He also formed ‘Women Rehabilitation Board’ in 1972 with 11 renowned teachers and women politicians, including Professor Nilima Ibrahim and Advocate Momtaz Begum for rehabilitating the victims and their war children. He also launched jobs and stipends for the wives and daughters of the martyred freedom fighters.
The Constitution, Bangabandhu gave to the nation in 1972, also ensures the equal rights of both men and women. Article 27 of the Constitution stipulates: “All citizens are equal before the law and are entitled to equal protection of the law.” Also, Article 28 (1) says, “The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth,” and Article 28 (2) says, “Women shall have equal rights with men in all spheres of the State and public life.”
While empowering women in politics, Bangabandhu, in 1973, added two female members in the cabinet – Principal Begum Badrunnesa Ahmed in the education ministry and Begum Nurjahan Murshid in social welfare. For promoting women leadership in politics, 15 women were made the Members of the Parliament (MPs) in reserved seats while article 65 (3) in the Constitution also ensures reserved seats for women in the parliament. In addition to reserved seats, women can directly participate in the elections in 300 seats under Article 65 (2) of the Constitution.
Bangabandhu emphasized the economic empowerment of women. He often used to say that if women have their own income, their get more respect in the family. Therefore, he not only initiated a 10 per cent quota system for women in a government job, but also created lots of scopes to improve skills for different economic activities, apart from academic education. He also took initiatives for including rural women in agriculture more efficiently and started agriculture-based programmes in 33 bighas of land under Women Affairs Department in Savar in 1973.
In his ‘Amar Dekha Noya China’ book, Bangabandhu wrote: “Women in New China have joined by groups in lands, mills and factories and army. Truly speaking, if half of the people of a nation do not have any activities but giving births, the nation cannot grow up in the world. The men cannot do injustice to the women in China because of equal rights of men and women.” He also realized, as said in the title, “The main reason for the growth of New China is that both men and women have come forward equally for the sake of the country. They responded to the nation-building equally, and therefore they are marching towards development.”