A letter from Sir Fazle for International Women’s Day

March 7, 2018

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There is one thing we need to understand clearly: patriarchy is an enemy to both men and women. Men need to be saved from patriarchy just as much as women. If we are able to defeat patriarchy, both women and men will gain.

 

8 March is International Women’s Day and, as in previous years, the day brings certain messages to us all. The theme for this year is ‘Now is the time to change the lives of rural and urban women’.

Changing the lives of women is not an easy task, since it involves changing many different values and behaviours. Our biggest enemy in this process is patriarchal values, which are harmful to both men and women. Patriarchy leads to controlling behaviour among men, which holds women back as well as preventing the proper and positive development of men’s personalities. Patriarchy thus harms both men and women. It is a big obstacle to building a just, well-functioning society. If this obstacle is to be overcome, both women and men must be equally involved in the struggle against patriarchy.

There is one thing we need to understand clearly: patriarchy is an enemy to both men and women. Men need to be saved from patriarchy just as much as women. If we are able to defeat patriarchy, both women and men will gain.

Photo credit: BRAC/Shehzad Noorani

You may remember that I have mentioned our unfinished efforts to establish gender equality before. I have said that I do not know if I will live to see gender equality and this might remain an unfinished agenda at the end of my life. I have also underlined the vital role that gender equality plays in social development and domestic harmony, ending with a call to all at BRAC to make gender equality one of our top commitments.

On this year’s International Women’s Day, I would like to reaffirm this message. Gender equality will be our top commitment. We will have to think how BRAC can play a role in fulfilling this commitment and how the issue of establishing equality can be strengthened in our programmes.

We are already working to combat violence against women. However, we now need to push ahead and devise new activities in the movement to establish equality. At BRAC, we will continue to fight against anything that stands in the way of women’s development, holds women back, deprives them of their rights and damages their self-esteem or self-respect. By showing zero tolerance towards any incident of harassment of women, we will preserve the dignity of women everywhere. We must also remember that giving women equal opportunities is not only our duty as human beings, ending the deprivation and oppression of women is required for the development of a humane society.

Photo credit: BRAC/Shehzad Noorani

Given the injustice, deprivation and violence women are facing across the world, it is our moral duty to take a firm stand on this issue. Only a few countries have shown notable success in their efforts to establish gender equality. They have come close to achieving equality. By comparison, we are only just beginning. We have made expected progress on a range of socioeconomic indicators, but we still lag behind in ensuring respect and fair treatment for women. We must be steadfast in pursuing the struggle to create an equal society.

Gender equality is a prerequisite for a just and humane society. We must succeed in achieving it.

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