Southasia - - REFORM BANGLADESH - The writer holds a de­gree in In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions. She fo­cuses on South Asian af­fairs and hu­man rights is­sues.

A fairly large num­ber of Bangladeshi women work on farms and play an im­por­tant role in crop pro­duc­tion. From col­lect­ing fod­der to sow­ing to land prepa­ra­tion and live­stock care, it is women who han­dle most of the stress­ful work in the fields.

How­ever, their ef­forts are cat­e­go­rized as house­hold work which eco­nom­i­cally un­der­mines their par­tic­i­pa­tion. Added to this is the fact that they hardly have any right over the land on which they work.

Even in cases where women are land own­ers, var­i­ous stud­ies in­di­cate that they leave most of the ma­jor de­ci­sions such as cul­ti­va­tion and su­per­vi­sion of their lands to the male mem­bers of the fam­ily. There are in­stances when women are forced to give up their in­her­i­tance rights in fa­vors of other fam­ily mem­bers. Some­times they do so on the ba­sis of com­pas­sion.

De­spite the in­tro­duc­tion of a num­ber of land re­forms, the steps taken so far have largely been un­sat­is­fac­tory, and women, es­pe­cially those who be­long to the lower classes, still face the typ­i­cal prob­lems.

Gen­der-pro­gres­sive groups can play an im­por­tant role in cre­at­ing aware­ness of the land own­er­ship is­sue. The fe­male po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship of the coun­try can also in­tro­duce re­forms in the cur­rent land own­er­ship laws that were made years ago and have lost their use­ful­ness. If the is­sue is dealt in the right man­ner, the ma­jor­ity of Bangladeshi women work­ing in this in­for­mal sec­tor can make a sub­stan­tial con­tri­bu­tion to the econ­omy.

The women of Bangladesh have a long way to go in terms of land own­er­ship and so­ci­etal sig­nif­i­cance. The most plau­si­ble mile­stone would be the re­al­iza­tion of their con­tri­bu­tions and re­spect for their de­ci­sion-mak­ing ca­pac­ity.

The past few years have been slug­gish when it comes to al­le­vi­at­ing the so­cial sta­tus of women. To achieve this propo­si­tion, women should be trusted in their agri­cul­tural work, house­hold du­ties and busi­nesses. En­cour­age­ment at all lev­els will work to­wards im­prov­ing their over­all sit­u­a­tion.

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