The International Rural Women’s Day was celebrated on 15 October in Netrokona, Bangladesh. Many women from the villages around came together and had a fun time. It was nice to notice how many women from the Swallows ACCESS program, a program that aims to increase women’s participation in the society, were sitting there proudly and participating in the festivities.
The schedule started with a parade walking towards a school nearby. At the school ground some games were played, the Bangladeshi version of the chair game for example. It was nice to see the women smiling and having fun. I noticed that Rina was participating in one of the games. I cheered for her. Rina is one of ACCESS participants from Bonuapara village, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to interview her. She is one of the broken ones, she was married at a very young age and she has very little self-esteem and is not respected by her husband or mother-in-law. She came of as being very sad and lonely and I as I talked to her I became so grateful that this program exists and that Rina was able to join in it. Rina won the chair game and received her winning price a water bucket for her household. I am very glad that Rina won. She seemed happy and looked proud.
After the games, some speeches were held by the Upazilla chairman, Violence against Women committee’s chairman, representative of the women participating in ACCESS and the school headmaster. Then Kohinoor Begum one of SUS (Swallows partner organization) directors ended it with a powerful speech on how important this day was for the women’s fight for freedom. She encouraged all men to give their wife and daughters a small gift for example flower or a chocolate to emphasize the importance of this day and show their support.
As I sat there listening to one of the speeches on how important education is for women, I noticed that a woman wearing a black burka came walking slowly towards us but she stopped by a big tree quite far away standing there trying to play a low profile, half behind the tree. I saw that she was listening to the speech that was being given. She stood there for some time and I am sure she wanted to join but she could not or was not allowed to. It is my hope that she will come again next year and maybe then she will come a bit closer.
The schedule ended with some cultural music and dancing activities, something everybody enjoyed very much.
As I drove back to the office with my colleagues in the auto rickshaw I saw where some of the women from the celebration where shopping at the market. They looked free, at least this day they were free.