The British Council in Bangladesh observed International Women’s Day 2015 by organising various events in Dhaka, Sylhet and Chittagong from March 2-9, which closely adopted the theme set by the UN - "Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it!"
This year, the British Council partnered up other leading institutions and organised events through which the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) team were able to raise awareness of gender equality in personal and professional lives. Associating with partner organisations allowed our events to create a greater impact on a wider audience.
Country Director Barbara Wickham officially commenced the celebrations by sending out a message to all staff, inviting everyone to participate in the festivities of the week leading up to International Women’s Day. An online survey on women’s empowerment was also circulated among the staff to find out their perceptions of the term “empowerment”. Furthermore, the British Council also issued a week-long offer of 25% discount on library memberships for women.
The British Council, in partnership with Standard Chartered Bank and leading English language newspaper The Daily Star, organised a round-table discussion “How to ensure a conducive working environment for women” at The Daily Star office, Dhaka. 12 highly influential panellists participated in the discussions around women’s role and challenges in the workplace.
Chief Editor and Publisher of The Daily Star, Mahfuz Anam said, “I am proud to say that the media in general, The Daily Star in particular, has been proactive in promoting gender equality. Within an institution there should be a clear message from the leadership of the organisation that no sort of discrimination will be tolerated within the workplace.”
His opinions were echoed in comments made by Abrar Anwar, CEO, Standard Chartered Bangladesh, who recognised the event as an opportunity to share what institutions should do to create a conducive working environment for women.
Other panellists included women in leadership positions from Manusher Jonno Foundation, BRAC, Dhaka University, DFID, Berger Paints Bangladesh, British Council, The Daily Star and Standard Chartered Bank. Important points regarding policy formulation, gender equality at top management, measures against inequality, administration responsibility towards maternity leave, gender sensitisation etc. were raised and addressed.
"It is also the responsibility of leaders to search and groom women who can reach the top," said Rokia A Rahman, Chairman of Mediaworld and President of Bangladesh Federation for Women Entrepreneurs. She said very few women are seen at the top management in any organisation.
International Women’s Day was observed in the thematic purple colour at the British Council offices in Dhaka, Sylhet and Chittagong. The office premises and teaching centres were decorated in purple balloons; the staff wore purple and bore “International Women’s Day 2015” badges, while every customer was handed out a rose in celebration of the day.
British Council Chittagong invited three notable individuals who are currently working for the progress of Bangladesh from their respective fields to share their experiences and reflections as women leaders. Waseqa Ayesha Khan, Member of the Parliament, commemorated the achievements of Bangladeshi women in wide range of fields from the garments industry to the Air Force, sports and politics. Sabrina Sultana, Founder President of B-SCAN talked about disability and inclusiveness while Shaheda Sultana, Assistant Superintendent of Police, RAB 7 arrested the audience’s attention by sharing her personal experiences in a highly dangerous line of work. The speeches were followed by art performances and entertaining music by the musical group ‘Raktakorobi’.
Nasreen Sultana (Deputy Country Exams Manager, British Council Bangladesh) had an interview published in The Daily Star on Friday 6th March 2015 along with some other working women at the British High Commission and DFID. The article was titled “Behind the Brick Wall” -
"Getting the opportunity to help the young people of Bangladesh to achieve their global aspirations is what makes my job most interesting. I have been with the Examination Services for eleven years now and continue to enjoy the diversity of my role, which is endlessly fascinating, as it allows me to be creative and innovative, build cultural relations between people of Bangladesh and UK. And last but not least, the satisfaction it brings in me to see the smile on a Bangladeshi candidate’s face who receives the top marks in the world in their exams. I celebrate womanhood everyday as women of this country contribute so much to the society and their family both formally and informally. Let’s celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day together to recognize, honour and salute women around the world for the sacrifice and immeasurable support the provide to the society."
The spirit of International Women’s Day 2015 was carried on with an engaging workshop organised by the Women Journalist Network Bangladesh on 'Women at Work: Challenges and Prospects' at the British Council Dhaka office.
The event was opened by Arshia Aziz, Head of Marketing and Communications, British Council Bangladesh, who related her experiences as a woman in the corporate world. “Thanks to the management policies of the British Council, I am lucky to have never experienced any difficulty working as a Muslim woman wearing a hijab,” she says. “My identity has always remained intact.”
The panel represented women working in highly volatile conditions of media and journalism. The discussions not only revealed the unpredictable circumstances, working hours and expectations, but they also questioned the enforcement of gender equality and equal rights and treatment in the workplace. The women journalists referred to the issues of violence, working night shifts, maternity leave, equal wage, promotion and social mind-set as challenges still faced by women in the profession today.
Diplomatic Correspondent of newspaper Dainik Bhorer Kagoj, Angur Nahar Monty, Joint Secretary of Jatiya Press Club, Farida Yasmin, President and CEO of Change Makers, Tanbir Siddiqui, Associate Professor of Mass Communication and Journalism of University of Dhaka, Sabrina Sultana Chowdhury, and News Editor of ATN News, Probhash Amin, were present as panel speakers. The event was also graced by the presence of Shah Ami Hossain, Channel I Europe, who won the prestigious Tower Hamlets Civic Awards for improving the quality of life for local people and women in England through journalism. The workshop succeeded in bringing about a common and strong commitment towards making the workplace a safe place for women.