This is the TIME!

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It is a different day today in Bangladesh. There is a different air, a different aura, like never before. People from all walks of life, locations, across the country have taken to the street. Women, men, children, every one are walking on the streets demanding an end to a culture. A culture that has been “normal”, “private”, “silent”. A society which treated violence against women as a “normal’ issue has shown their support today as they occupied the streets in Dhaka and across all districts in Bangladesh.

“Silence- NO MORE”, chanted women and men. ‘NO MORE violence against women, they sang in unison as they took the streets today at 1 pm. These were people who stepped out of small shops, factories, construction sites, stations, offices, households, everywhere from across Bangladesh.

Human chains were formed in Lalmonihaat, Faridpur, Magura, Barisal, Khulna, Chittagong Hill Tracts, and all other districts across Bangladesh!

In Dhaka, following human chains, we have moved to Shilpakala academy field now. Here we have organized a festival to play a tribute to women across Bangladesh, across the world. Numerous performances are taking place here. Arnob is on stage now as we write this post, come join us as we celebrate womanhood, as we stand in solidarity to say NO to violence against women. It has been way too long, the time has come!

Next few performances include Shadhona dance, Action Aid shelter home girls’ performance, Shomporker Noya Shetu, Krishnokali, and more! We will be singing Jagoroner Gaan at 6.30 this evening. We will be lighting candles in solidarity with Shahbagh and the entire nation at 7pm.

Come join us now!ImageImage

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One Billion Rising Bangladesh joins the WORLD

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Uddomey Uttoroney Shotokoti (One Billion Rising), an alliance of rights groups, government and private sector institutions, cultural groups, students and activists, mobilised millions of women and men across the country to rise up, walk out and demand an end to violence against women on Thursday (Feb 14) to mark the global ‘One Billion Rising’ campaign being observed. This was along side 200 other countries who gathered to demand an end to violence against women.

With extraordinary solidarity, women and men, from all walks of life, formed human chains from 1 pm in over 42 locations all over Dhaka city, as well as in all 66 districts of the country. The longest stretch of the human chain was formed from Mirpur to Asad gate moving up to the Parliament building, where Parliamentarians and MPs joined together in solidarity against violence against women. In a historical stance across the country, offices, factories, schools, universities, TV stations, media, agencies, everywhere, people stepped out and stood in solidarity at 1 pm.

With over 384 supporting organizations, millions of workers from different sectors, and people from diverse occupations were mobilized.

To express their stand and demand an end to violence against women, some of the slogans chanted included ‘No more silence’, ‘we demand a rape free society’, ‘we have not forgotten the rapes of 71 and we will not tolerate violence today, ‘May every place be safe for women’.

In red attires, and hoisting red clothes, women and men joined across the country in numbers larger than ever before, for a cause that has been long overdue. The men and women across Bangladesh not only showed their solidarity but also brought home the fact that women’s rights issue is not secondary, personal or isolated. It is a national issue and the time for the society to act has come.

In addition to the nationwide programme, from 3pm, a cultural festival titled ‘Protibaad Kori, Protirodh gori’(OBR Bangladesh) is starting at Shilpakala Academy. The festival will play a tribute to women across Bangladesh and using various forms of artworks, dances, skits, recitations, muImageImagesic, and screenings.

Powerful visuals and art works were displayed to depict the message of breaking the silence, the shackles and challenges faced by Bangladesh women. Each image, each display and portrayal of performances also gave the message that the time is NOW. To stand up, to strike the core of violence and RISE against patriarchy and every force that limits women and their freedom.

The powerful event will followed by a concert, titled ‘No More- Aar Na!’.  Artistes at the concert include Arnob, Pantha kanai, Nemesis, Stone Free, Chirkut, Warda Ashraf, Krishnokoli and many others.

The objective of this widespread protest across Bangladesh is to break the silence and inaction about violence against women. The reason for choosing Valentine’s Day is because there is a need to bring about a change in the commercialised nature of the day and establish it to be about loving and respecting women.

The women’s rights movement in Bangladesh has been moving ahead with numerous recent achievements and this movement aims to further strengthen the actions so that more survivors and their families speak up and that they are not denied justice.

February 14 is not an end, but rather a starting point and a step forward for future discussions and action on violence against women. OBR member organisations will use this platform to consolidate and coordinate their efforts where possible and challenge discriminatory practices and laws through awareness-raising activities, training, outreach, advocacy etc.

In the name of Honour

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Tahmina Shafique

Our lives, as women, in Bangladesh, are founded on a twisted interpretation of “Honour”. This concept is based not on honesty, integrity and fairness, but rather on some perceived “worthiness” and “respectability”. In this light, the Bangladeshi family is viewed as a unit of honour, and the family affects a woman’s identity and social standing; simultaneously, there exists a mutual feedback loop wherein a woman’s conduct, and how it is perceived by others and the society at large, has an impact on the family.

Therefore, it becomes important for us to fulfil the expectations held by family and society in order to be accepted and to experience feelings of belonging to this central institution that we are tied to through birth or marriage.

Unfortunately, the reality of maintaining this honour in our lives is often at odds with our own individual freedom, choice, will or achievement. Our lives are not based on “freedom”, on “liberty” or on the ability to live within a free spirited space. Yet, as a nation, as a society, collectively, we pride ourselves on values such as freedom and democracy.

There is a great deal of research on-going on women across the world, and specifically in South Asia. Increasingly, there are cold hard statistics that clearly indicate escalating levels of violence against women. Missing in these numbers are numerous unreported nightmares faced by women in trying to reconcile with their place in society. No amount of progress in terms of education, class, and development has resulted in the evolution of our society.

obrbd-logoEvery move, every decision that a woman takes must ensure that this honour is restored. So, when a girl is raped or sexually abused by family members, it becomes a secret that must be kept forever, because it will hurt the “honour” or the social standing of the family. Honour, then, is far more important than any damage created within the daughters of families. So, the daughters of these numerous honourable families go through abuse thrice in their lifetime- first, when the actual event occurs; second, in the aftermath of dealing with trauma for a lifetime, and third, dealing with the silence and ignorance of her family.

Even outside of the family boundaries, if a woman is sexually harassed, abused or raped, it is still her duty to keep the honour of her family intact. If she does stand up and fight it, which entails breaking away from silence and talking about it, will invariably hurt the honour of the family, of the acquaintances, of the greater society. Starting from families and the greater society, everyone will continue to use their combined forces to “justify” rape or any form sexual assault- “she was not honourable enough”, she was not dressed appropriately”, “It must have been her fault” and more.

The streets tell women that sexual harassment is all right and honour has a different meaning than we think. Being grabbed, being pinched, being verbally abused is normal. ‘A little bit of sexual abuse is all right and it is common’, that’s what they will tell you. Silence is the “key”. Who would appreciate a woman standing up in the street and creating a chaos? This is definitely not respectful or honourable in the eyes of our society.

Even in a marriage, it must be the woman who must keep that honour intact. Once you sign up, no amount of violence or emotional abuse is justified enough for a decision for walking away. It is the woman’s duty to maintain the honour of her family and her in-laws. Being pushed or thrown by your husband, in the middle of a fight, is simply a moment of anger and nothing more. It in no way indicates violent tendencies. Leaving is often not the first choice a woman is able to take, because walking out leads to series of battles with their own families and the entire society.

Honour even extends to our achievements as women. How can you, as a woman, achieve so much in your work place or in your career? How can an honourable woman put her career first? There must have been something wrong. It is not about intelligence or efficiency or anything more.

It does not end. Honour extends to how we, as women carry ourselves. From what we wear, to what we do, to whom we mingle with, and what we say, is constantly under scrutiny. If you are a daughter of an honourable family, if you are the wife of an honourable husband, if you are a mother, you must maintain the norms that this society has created for you and live up to the expectations that the society has carefully designed for you.

It never ends, really. Not from birth; not even till our very last breath.

Many men, and unfortunately women themselves, too, believe that the well-being of the entire society lies on the shoulders of a woman and, more importantly, in her ability to suffer every wrong, in utter and submissive silence. This means that, while there will be many legal and technical arguments, the actual arena in which all cases of violence against women may be won or lost are the hearts and minds of the ordinary men and women of our society. Because it is really not the law alone that has failed to prevent violence against women; it is the collective, colossal force of prejudice, chauvinism and insensitivity of this very society that has brought us where we are. Unless we change this mindset, unless we change the fundamentals through which we shape a woman’s place in this society, we will continue the twisted legacy of imposing our perverse sense of honour on our daughters, and on women for decades to come.

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Tahmina Shafique works in an international development agency in Bangladesh. She is a part of VDAY Dhaka and a member of the core organizing group of One Billion Rising Campaign Bangladesh.

published: http://opinion.bdnews24.com/2013/01/15/in-the-name-of-honour/

Voices of South Asian Women… Join us! The time is now!

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South Asian Women’s Day celebrates the voices of South Asian women, their rights and belief in peace, justice, human rights and democracy. Following the declaration of this day by Sangat – A South Asian Feminist Network – in October 2002, every year, several organisations have come together as part of the International Fortnight Campaign against violence against women to express South Asian women’s solidarity for peace, justice, human rights and democracy.

 The region of South Asia is bound by a common thread of history, language, arts and culture. Its concerns are similar too—rising levels of poverty, widening income gaps, greater emphasis on weapons and military, increasing intolerance towards minorities, civil unrest, human rights’ violations, and most of all, increasing violence against women. South Asia is one of the most violent regions for women.Our effort is to create consciousness as South Asians for concerns in our region, to forge friendships across borders and support each other in creating a more peaceful South Asia.

This year with the ongoing ONE BILLION RISING CAMPAIGN we would like to invite you to symbolically connect all the on going activities in the different regions on the 30th of November as a mark of solidarity and strength to root out violence in our regions.

 The Program will be held at ‘Bokultola’, Faculty of Fine Arts (Charukola Onushed), Dhaka University. Time: 3.30pm.

This will be followed by a walk for reclaiming the night, with the slogan “‘raater bera bhhangbo, shadhhin bhhabey cholbo”

It is important as South Asians to come together, to express our solidarity and raise our voices against injustice and for peace, justice, human rights and democracy.

Every year, men and women of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma India, Pakistan, Maldives, Sri Lanka, and Tibet gather to speak in one firm voice about the need to reinforce democracy, peace, human rights and dialogue in the region. This year let us all rise together in solidarity for a safer world for women and girls.

We mark this day every year to raise the voices of South Asian women. to express solidarity and demand for a violence free world.

 
 ImageOn Behalf of Sangat

Peace is possible. If we Think it. Plan it. Do it.