A constant stress, both mental and physical, is a reality for every working woman in Bangladesh.
While at work outside her home, a woman constantly faces hurdles from her family members– her husband and in-laws, from her colleagues, and society.In Bangladesh, the first person to stop a woman from attending her work is often her husband himself. There are thousands of cases where after getting married, a husband starts to dislike her working outside the home, and prefers she remains indoor and abandon her job.
After spending a month in Seattle and interacting with many women in a professional atmosphere, I observed that women here are much more independent, but they are not free. They have the same opportunities when it comes to acquiring jobs, but are not provided with the additional facilities that a woman might need — a woman cannot take a paid maternity leave after giving birth to a child. As a result, a working woman has to attend work, and also take care of the new born baby even before she has taken time to recover. This can lead to a long term problem for society, and working women as well.
Often they have a difficult time maintaining both at the same time.
Era Schrepfer, Executive Director of FIUTS, shared her experience with me. She said, “The balance between work and family is always complicated. There are many sacrifices no matter what you choose to do. For most American families, it is an economic reality that both parents need to work in order to support our families, but our country does not offer very much support to working moms. I think most mothers wish they had more help!”
The Government of Bangladesh is trying to bring women out of the house and are providing many facilities to encourage them work outside the home. Education is now free for girls till University. There is also a system of four-month maternity leave with full payment in Bangladesh and women are encouraged to have a job outside home.
things change for a working woman when she gets married – The money that she used to use to assist her poor parents, she then has to hand over to her husband. She also loses the freedom to move freely (like visiting a market place or her friends) even during the day, without permission of her husband.
In Bangladesh, even if a woman works outside putting all the hardships behind, colleagues, especially male colleagues of a working woman, tried to harass her in various ways. In most cases, they consider her inept and inefficient worker and never hesitate to speak against her activities at her work place even if she is efficient. The criticism of a female colleague of being a burden to the office and society is very common in almost all offices of the country. This has been happened for a long time because female in the society has been regarded as lower class employees even after working at the same rank and with full potential.
Most. Monjuara Khatun works as a Correspondent for a reputed national daily in the city of Rajshahi in Bangladesh. Now in her mid-forties, she has worked in news and advertising for nearly one and a half decades. The pity is, she is provided with no regular salaries like those of the male employees in the capital, Dhaka.
She said,”I am treated as a third class citizen by the authority. A number of times I have requested my newspaper to include me in the regular Wage Board and to treat me as a Staff Reporter but all my requests were in vain”.
In contrast, the work environment here is suitable for women and a woman is paid and honored as much as a man. Women working outside the home is not a prestigious concept in some parts of the country; it is only normal in the cities.
Claire Hagen Dole, a retired senior, said, “Women in America are much more independent now than the time I had a job”. When she first started working, society was not as flexible regarding women working outside. But as the protests went on against it, people changed their mind, as well.
The situation that Claire was in decades ago at her job still prevails in Bangladesh! And for married women, things are more difficult.It is often seen, a working woman loses her monetary freedom after her marriage. Drawing her salary at the end of the month, she has to hand it over to her husband as she has no freedom to spend the money as her own. But then again, things have now started to change.
While in America, women do have the freedom to use their money, what do not have are the facilities from the government to help them raise a child. Here, the husband, family members, as well as society support the working women, but they are able to provide little help.
On the other hand, Shariful Islam, a 45 years old teacher from Bangladesh, thinks that if men become caregivers to help their wives nurture the family, then things might change in Bangladesh.He further said, “Things have started to change in the country, all we need is a little bit more awareness and lots of love and respect toward women. Moreover, is we all remember that we were all born and reared by our mothers; we can’t help but respect them. Working women should be respected further because they are also caring mothers, wage earners and wives. If we fail to give proper honor to working women, we cease to claim ourselves as conscious human beings”.