June 14-20, 2008
The Sub Regional Women’s Programme was held on June 14-20, 2008 at KARITAS, Dhaka, Bangaladesh on the theme; Women’s Response to the growing concerns of Poverty, Trafficking and HIV/AIDS: Challenges and Hopes. 12 young women from South Asia participated in the said programme, representing the national movements of SCM Bangladesh, SCM India, SCM Pakistan and SCM Sri Lanka. The Goals of the programme were:
The content of the workshop was planned to discuss and reflect on Gender analysis, Sharing of the contemporary realities of women in South Asian countries by the participants—followed by analysis, Women, Poverty Trafficking and HIV/AIDS- South Asian Context, Role of CEDAW to stop VAW, Core challenges in ending VAW– and Different Mechanism to address VAW, Role of SCM Women in their community to promote gender justice, Bible studies from the perspectives of women and Exposure to the community.
Gender Analysis was conducted by Ms. Mohuya Nizam, Programme Manager – Rights, from Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF), Dhaka. She analyzed the gender stereotypes through various exercises and activities to understand how gender is constructed by the environment we live. She explained how women and men are conditioned and forced to accept the societal given roles and responsibilities to fulfill society’s expectations. She also emphasized that this gender conditioning to maintain our life as woman and men has a direct implications especially for woman in the area of social, economic, political and religious field.
Contemporary realities of women in South Asian countries was a sharing session by the participants. The participants were asked to prepare on this topic from the context of their own countries, prior to the porgramme. The participants shared and reflected the issues and conditions of violence against women in their countries. The sharing session brought the common realities, and struggle of women in their regions, which helped the group to analyze how patriarchy is the manifestation of violence against women in every society and they were surprised to see the common concerns of women from every South Asian countries.
The interlink of the issue of poverty, trafficking and HIV/AIDS and its impact on women was dealt by Ms. Rowshon Ara, Dhaka Ahsania Mission. She explained the push and pull factor of the growing concern of trafficking in women. She said majority of women are living in abject poverty with no choice for survival. On the other hand the sex trade is growing as billion dollars business across the globe. The sex traders take the advantage of the vulnerable situation of women to exploit them and they are easily accessible for exploitation. Every year around 15,000 women from Bangladesh are being trafficked to the brothels in India and Pakistan. The situation in the country is pushing women to accept the exploitative way of survival. She said trafficking in women must address seriously, by Governments implementing laws, by communities and civil societies.
There was a session on CEDAW by Professor Mahamuda Islam, from Gender Studies Dhaka University and also the head of the Women for Women in Dhaka. She introduced the convention and the significance of the convention. She said, though CEDAW is ratified by the South Asian countries, every country has the reservation to certain articles which is also creating obstacles to implement this convention. Moreover it’s important to bring awareness of CEDAW among the grassroots women which is not happening in our society.
The role of SCM women to promote gender justice was conducted by Ms. Keka Adhikari – Senior friend of SCM and WSCF. She also serves as the Director of the HR department of The Leprosy Mission in Dhaka. Keka shared about her journey in SCM as a woman, her leadership role in the local units and in the region as the member of the Regional Women’s Committee. She also explained in brief about the importance of women leadership in the national SCM and in the federation, her inspiration from other women in the federation which motivated her to commit herself to work in the SCM Bangladesh. She also tried to emphasize the challenges during her time and in today’s context as a woman leader. Her personal sharing was also quite inspiring to other young women in the programme.
The Bible studies were conducted from the perspectives of women by Sunita Suna, the Regional Women’s Coordinator, WSCF AP, Ms. Monisha Helen Sarkar, Asst Gen. Secy YWCA, Dhak and Bishop Mondal, the patron of SCM Bangladesh. The Bible studies were focused on the Re reading the Bible from the women’s perspectives, Contextual Bible study on Violence against Women and the contribution and leadership role of women in the Bible.
Exposure Programme was a different experience for the group. They visited 3 different organizations. 1. Durjoy Nari Sangha, working for the upliftment and empowerment of commercial sex workers, 2. Mukta Akash is creating awareness and working with people living with HIV/AIDS and 3. Badhan Hijra Sangha – The transvestites’ community. The group interacted and met with the women in the community to understand the realities. Their true stories of exploitation enraged the participants for the unjust systems where always women face the brunt of it. The group also visited the shelter for the children of the commercial sex workers. The exposure was quite moving when the group met with this community. The main intention of the exposure was to expose the realties and suffering of women in the society, and to change our attitudes towards the people who are marginalized in the main stream society.