Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today reiterated her call for establishing equal rights of males and females, saying that no society could advance if half segment of the society is left behind in the process of progress and development.
"Equal rights of males and females are a must for advancement of society. It is reality that no society could advance or develop if half portion of the society is left behind in the process of progress and development," she said.
The Prime Minister said this while inaugurating Begum Rokeya Day and distributing Begum Rokeya Padak-2014 at Osmani Memorial Auditorium here this morning.
She handed over Begum Rokeya Padak-2014 to Professor Mamtaz Begum and Mrs Golap Banu for their outstanding contribution to expand women education, establish women rights and socioeconomic development of the helpless and poor women.
The Ministry of Children and Women Affairs organized the function with State Minister for Women and Children Affairs Meher Afroze Chumki in the chair.
Secretary of the ministry Tariq-ul-Islam delivered the welcome address at the function, while Professor Mamtaz Begum and Mrs Golap Banu expressed their feelings about winning Begum Rokeya Padak-2014.
The Prime Minister expressed her firm optimism that no girl would be deprived of education as her government has taken various steps for ensuring education of the women to materialize the dream of Begum Rokeya.
"I hope that by the grace of Allah, no such a situation in the country will exist in future that any girl will be left out from education. Every girl would be educated," she said.
Sheikh Hasina said Begum Rokeya had a dream that the neglected women are educated and made self-reliant. "Her dream was mostly materialized. She remains alive and would remain alive in the hearts of every educated woman," she said.
The Prime Minister said the country would have not advanced much had Begum Rokeya not been born and had she not showed the path of education. "She had brought a revolution in the society and gone ahead by crossing all hurdles," she said.
The Prime Minister said many women of the society have been working for freedom and honour of the women and increasing their dignity.
"I am extending my heartiest greetings and congratulations to those who received Begum Rokeya Padak-2014 and hope that this would encourage them in making contribution to women development," she said.
Paying rich tributes to Begum Rokeya, Sheikh Hasina said Begum Rokeya was a beacon of women renaissance and an institution of female education.
"Her ideology, inspiration, strong mentality and working spirit showed the path of freedom to the womenfolk," she said.
The Prime Minister said the then Muslim women were confined to the house. "Superstition, narrow-mindedness and dark life were their constant companions and they had no freedom for participation in family, social and political fields," she said.
She said as Begum Rokeya was confined to house, she (Begum Rokeya) realized that removing women problems and barrier is possible through only the light of education.
"She realized that not only the males, the participation of the females is a must for social development," Sheikh Hasina said.
The Prime Minister said Begum Rokeya had founded Shakhawat Memorial Girls School to free the womenfolk from the curse of illiteracy which was a courageous step of that era in the development of women.
"The development that has been made in female education is the invaluable contribution of Begum Rokeya," she said.
Spelling out her government's steps for women development, Sheikh Hasina said the government has given priority to women participation in state policy, projects and programmes and female education.
"The rate of female education has been increased due to providing education and education materials free of cost and giving stipends," she said.
The Prime Minister said her government framed the Women Development Policy-2011 and the Domestic Violence Prevention Act-2010.
"Gender sensitive budget is being formulated in 40 ministries to ensure women participation in different government programmes," she said.
Sheikh Hasina said the number of women reserved seats in the Jatiya Sangsad has been raised to 50, while the number of reserved female seats has been raised to one-third.
"Women empowerment has been increased manifold due to holding of direct elections in these seats," she said.
The Prime Minister said as per the report of the Global Gender Gap published in 2013, Bangladesh has been placed at seventh position in the women's political empowerment.
"Today, the country's Prime Minister, Opposition Leader and Speaker of parliament all are women and there is a strong presence of the females in cabinet, administration, army, navy and air force, judiciary, police and other posts," she said.
Sheikh Hasina said the females have been working excellently at all places of the society. "Begum Rokeya would have become happy by seeing this state of the women, had she been alive," she said.
While expressing her feelings about winning the Begum Rokeya Padak-2014, Professor Mamtaz Begum paid rich tributes to Bangamata Begum Fazilatunnesa Mujib and said the great lady had encouraged her in engaging in the welfare of the women.
"I have taken steps to rehabilitate the women who were violated and tortured during the War of Liberation at the advice of Begum Mujib," she said.
Professor Mamtaz, also chairperson of Jatiya Mohila Sangstha, called for creating such an environment in every house so that females are groomed as human being.
Mrs Golap Banu said the women are not lagging behind but they lack courage. "We don't have courage and are scared in everything," she said.
She vowed to continue movement with the women. "I have no academic education, but my memory is good. I want to continue my movement with females," she said.
Narrating her struggle for establishing Baridhara Mohila Samabaya Samity Ltd in Dhaka, Golap Banu said the females want to work together with males. "There would be no crisis if we get scope for working together with males," she said.
Begum Rokeya Padak was introduced in 1995 and a total of 37 women personalities got the award since its inception. Begum Shamsunnahar Mahmud won the medal first in 1995, while Professor Hamida Banu and Jharna Dhara Chowdhury got the awards in 2013.
-Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)