Bangladesh Mahila Parishad: Norwegian partner in development since 1996
Bangladesh Mahila Parishad (BMP) is a voluntary, non-partisan and member-based civil society organisation, working to promote and protect women’s rights and establish true gender equality in Bangladesh. In 2013, more than 100,000 members were involved in BMP activities throughout the country.
BMP Dinajpur volunteers organised a wonderful fieldtrip. Photo: Royal Norwegian Embassy in Dhaka
Norway has supported BMP financially since 1996, and the organisation has expanded its activities significantly over the years. With 59 district branches and around 2300 units at the grassroots level, BMP is an organisation that reaches women all over Bangladesh.
The different BMP branches lead a vast range of activities, of which the common points are that they promote women’s emancipation through empowerment.
The activities vary from grassroots rallies condemning violence against women, to policy interventions for the mainstreaming of women in the National Development Process. BMP has also included men into their movement, which promotes the overall support of their activities.
Learn more about BMP and its activities here.
Field visit to Dinajpur
Dinajpur is located in the north-western part of Bangladesh, and consists of rural areas surrounding the larger city of Dinajpur. BMP Dinajpur has existed since the founding of the organisation itself, after the liberation war in 1971. With the aim of learning more about the scope of BMP activities, the strong presence of BMP in the area therefore made Dinajpur an interesting branch to visit.
In the course of a three-day visit, the Norwegian delegation and leaders of BMP experienced just how important the work of BMP Dinajpur is. The delegation observed programmes and activities, had meetings with volunteers, visited villages involved in BMP programmes, met with other civil society organisations in the area and even saw some of the touristic sites Dinajpur has to offer.
Ambassador Merete Lundemo observes a mediation session. Photo: Royal Norwegian Embassy in Dhaka
Norwegian Ambassador Merete Lundemo was amazed to see how the legal aid-services of BMP work at a grassroots level. Being able to sit and observe a mediation session, the delegation witnessed several people coming to BMP to seek help for different legal issues.
For example, a woman recently left by her husband wanted help to claim financial support.
Local lawyers who twice a week work as volunteers for BMP Dinajpur provide the legal advice. These lawyers receive the complaints, try to mediate a peaceful solution to the problem, and as a final step file cases and follow them up on behalf of the plaintiffs.
Empowering women to advocate for their own rights
A highly rewarding and informative part of the fieldtrip came when visiting villages where BMP operates.
One of the communities on the outskirts of Dinajpur consists of an indigenous people called the Oraon. The Oraon experience discrimination on a daily basis, and claimed to be treated as second-class citizens. For the women in the village, the burden is double, as they in addition endure discrimination based on gender. A major issue all the speakers highlighted was the fact that women and men do not get the same wage for the same amount of labour. When working in the fields, women receive 50-100 taka less a day than men do.
This is one of the discriminatory practices BMP Dinajpur is working to change. Through activities such as information campaigns and motivational group meetings, the women feel empowered and learn to advocate for their own rights.
In another village, the local level BMP group has started to protest against child marriage, and has successfully stopped several marriages that were in the pipeline. The women in this BMP group have started to speak up when they see unfair and discriminatory practices happening, as they have realized they do not have to accept unequal treatment. This change in mind-sets is one of the most important outcomes the delegation observed during the fieldtrip.
The field visit to Dinajpur was highly rewarding, and showed just how important the work of Bangladesh Mahila Parishad is.
- BMP Annual report 2013