Stressing the need for educating children on gender equality at home, CRI Trustee and Co-chairman and Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) Thematic Ambassador Saima Wazed Hossain has said she wants everyone in the country to be taught the way she teaches her four children that women and men are no different.
"We're all equal. Let's pay the deserved respect to women at home, outside home, on the streets, in schools, and the workplace," she said.
She also urged everyone to raise voice in unison against any violence against women anywhere – in schools, colleges, workplaces, streets, or elsewhere.
Launching a campaign titled "Women's Safety in Public Places (WSPP)" through a webinar on Wednesday night, Saima came up with the observations that came hot on the heels of a series of incidents of violence against women across the country.
The campaign was launched by Young Bangla – the youth wing of the ruling Awami League's research wing Centre for Research and Information's (CRI) in collaboration with UNDP and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).
"If a girl is harassed somewhere and no one comes to protest, what can she do alone? Anyone witnessing that incident must stand beside that girl," Saima added.
She said their boys have to be educated on gender equality from home so that that education reflects on their behaviour when they grow up and play a role in the family. "So, it all starts at home."
With a strict stance against the stereotypes surrounding women in society, Saima said, "If my strong voice is discouraged at my home, if I'm hushed up, if I'm reminded now and then – 'Stay calm, cool, and don't protest' – that's something not supported by the history of Bengali nation. You see that women were at the forefront of the movements launched by Bengalis. When our history inspires us, we must protest before anyone else does. Why should we keep silent?"
Saima said a woman of any age must walk with dignity and safety anywhere in the country. Everyone – not just women – is required to ensure that.
Referring to a documentary played during the webinar depicting how women fall prey to sexual harassment, she said any form of violence against women – not just rape – must be properly addressed.
"Sometimes a girl is told that she must do something. Else her professional development will be cut short or she may even lose her job. Unless we address all these issues, the problem will persist," Saima said.
UNDP Country Director Sudipto Mukherjee, State Minister for Women and Children Affairs Fazilatun Nessa Indira, State Minister for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Zunaid Ahmed Palak, Chief Coordinator for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Zuena Aziz, and Inspector General of Police (IGP) Benazir Ahmed joined a panel discussion as part of the online launching.
Earlier in March, the Young Bangla and Human Rights Programme of UNDP signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to promote the 'Women's Safety in Public Places' campaign.
To this end, the youth organisation has already set some stepping stones towards women's safety and empowerment, and the latest campaign is set as one of those.
Young Bangla has, since its inception, been carrying out, along with its partner organizations, a series of activities such as workshops, seminars, and other events to boost awareness about women's empowerment.
This campaign will springboard that effort.