At first single-handedly, but later with some peer groups, Rahima Begum of Patuakhali has kept her fight up against social discrimination against women.
Despite her birth in a conservative family in Charbiswas union in Galachipa upazila of the district, Rahima used to dream of a society free of disparities and injustices against women folks, a society that would recognise the importance of female workforce as part of inclusive development for a country.
While sharing her experience at a webinar organised by ActionAid Bangladesh on Thursday ahead of International Women's Day, Rahima narrated her strenuous efforts in dispelling existing disparities facing society.
"In my village, I alone stopped over 25 child marriages and am working to make women self-dependent breaking social barriers," she said.
"At the very outset, we had to face some stumbling blocks which still exist, but our drives will continue to create a society without violence and discrimination against women."
Later, Rahima became a Union Parishad member when many other women stepped into her shoes.
In her address, Brac University English Department Chair Firdous Azim, also a member of Naripokkho, said: "Women rights will be ensured only when social equality will come into being."
Academic and former adviser of a past caretaker government Rasheda K Chowdhury said: "The textbooks hardly have articles on women rights. Even writings of women writers are being removed from the textbooks."
She called for steps to bring a social change in eradicating all kinds of uncertainties for women in educational institutions.
At the programme, a gender and sexual rights activist and transfeminist, Hochemin Islam mentioned that no special measure has been taken for transgender women and even gender diversity is found nowhere in the women's movement.
She also advocated for the inclusion of transgender people in the mainstream to ensure their rights.
ActionAid Bangladesh Country Director Farah Kabir said, "Women leadership has come a long way in Bangladesh. However, just because women leaders have done well, it does not mean that has been able to change the mindset of people who are guided by strong stereotyped political, social and cultural values."
Women are underrepresented in many spheres and the number of women in positions of decision making is still few and far between in every sector, including politics, business, corporate, media, health and education, she observed.
At the end of the programme, a total of four persons were awarded Nasreen Smriti Padak-2021, a signature initiative by ActionAid Bangladesh in memory of former ActionAid country director Nasreen Parvin Huq, for their outstanding contributions to society and women empowerment.
Among others, Khushi Kabir, coordinator of Nijera Kori, spoke at the programme.