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Bangabandhu pioneered women's empowerment

DHAKA, Aug 19, 2014 (BSS) -Empowerment of women began through the 1972 Constitution. Politicians, writers and women rights'' activists think so.

"Empowerment of women was on top of Bangabandhu's agenda from the very start. That's why we have seat reservation for women in parliament, although the women's movement was not particularly strong then. But Bangabandhu involved women in the political process from the very beginning. That's why we had leaders like Badrunnessa Ahmed, Amena Begum and Zohra Tajuddin, "Civil Aviation and Tourism Minster Rashed khan Menon, MP, told BSS.

He further said women leaders working with Bangabandhu had a leading role. Most of these women activists were formerly associated with left parties but later they joined the Awami League.

Eminent writer, Selina Hossain, said "Bangabandhu believed in women's right. For political empowerment of women the Jatiya Sangsad reserved the seats for women from 1973 onwards. Besides, the first cabinet of post-independent Bangladesh had women members, too. The most important contribution of Bangabandhu to the cause of women was Article 17 of the Constitution that ensured equal rights for women and men."

She said the Muslim Marriage and Registration Law was passed in 1974. After the liberation Bangabandhu termed the persecuted women as "Biranganas". It means "Heroic women."

He also established the "Women's Rehabilitation Board". Its objective was rehabilitation and accommodation of persecuted women.

President of the Mohila Parishad, Ayesha Khanam, said "Bangabandhu had immense contribution to empowering women. He entrusted them with vital tasks".

President of the Communist Party of Bangladesh, Mujahidul Islam Selim, said "The tide of the women's movement had also influenced Bangabandhu. He tried to develop its culture within his party and in running of the state".

To uphold the status and dignity of women in the post-independent Bangladesh, Bangabandhu laid the foundation of the first women's organization of the country, Mohila Sangstha.

To imbue girl children and adolescents with self-respect, patriotism and ethics he revamped the Girls' Guide Association. He entrusted, Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury, the current deputy leader of the House, the task of doing so.

Sources at the Ministry of Women Affairs' said that in the first five-year plan (1973-1978) a number of programmes were undertaken for the rehabilitation of women who had been persecuted during the Liberation War. There was also adequate financial allocation for the programmes.

Honoriums, jobs and accommodation for the widows and daughters of martyrs were of special significance to him. Besides, through the "Women's Rehabilitation Board" a survey was carried out to assess the needs of persecuted women and widows of 1971.

As the activities of the Board increased it was made a Foundation by an Act of parliament in 1974.The Foundation extended its activities to the then district and sub-divisional levels. The programme continues even now as "Distressed Women and Children's Welfare Fund."

During Bangabandhu's tenure for the first time women's involvement in all sectors was ensured in the first Five-Year Plan.