International Women’s Day: Ensure gender equality in achieving the sustainable future

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Hill Voice, March 8, 2022, Special Correspondent: Today is March 8, International Women’s Day. The equal contribution of men and women to the unimaginable success of civilization is undeniable. The development of society cannot be imagined with the sole participation of men excluding women. March 8 is a significant day in the movement for the advancement of society, including the struggle for the establishment of equal rights and dignity of women in society and the struggle against discrimination, exploitation, deprivation, oppression and violence against women in all spheres of state, society and family.

The celebration of International Women’s Day began on March 8 at the suggestion of Clara Zetkin, the founder of the International Women’s Liberation Movement, at the Second International Women’s Conference, organized in 1910 in Copenhagen, Denmark, at the initiative of the world’s revolutionary and socialist women. The day was originally chosen to commemorate the strike called by women garment workers in New York City in 1908 to protest the inhumane conditions of work and discriminatory wages.

The United Nations has set the theme for this year – GENDER EQUALITY TODAY FOR SUSTAINABLE TOMORROW. A society based on equality and equal rights cannot be built without gender equality while it cannot be possible to build a democratic and progressive society in a country where state discrimination, ethnic-communal violence, oppression and deprivation of women are perpetuated.

In order to establish equal rights and dignity of women in the society, the indigenous Jumma women society of Chittagong Hill Tracts like other countries of the world has also joined the movement for the establishment of women’s rights. To this end, the Parbatya Chattagram Mahila Samity (CHT Women’s Association) was formed in 1975 on the initiative of the great leader Manabendra Narayan Larma with the leading Jumma women members. Shortly after its formation, 35 members of the Mahila Samity received political and military training during the armed movement of the Jumma people. This is the first military training in the history of Jumma women.

In addition to the armed struggle led by the PCJSS, a revolutionary political organization of Jumma girl students called Hill Women’s Federation was formed on March 8, 1988 in the democratic movement. Later, a two-member delegation from the Hill Women’s Federation joined the World Women’s Conference in Beijing in 1995 to raise awareness about the plight of Jumma women. Jumma women have also been participating in the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, Working Groups on Indigenous Populations, Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Needless to say, the courageous role of Hill Women’s Federation leader Kalpana Chakma in the movement for self-determination of the Jumma people in the hills and the heroic struggle of Hajongmata Rashimani Hajong, a revolutionary leader of indigenous women in the plains, is an inspiration to the indigenous women emancipation movement.

Compared to the past, the progress of indigenous Jumma women’s society in recent times is somewhat noticeable. Indigenous women have been praised in the Bangladesh women’s football team. There are 70 footballers from 27 districts in the women’s camp of Bangladesh Football Federation. Of these, 12 football players came from indigenous communities. Among them are 5 Marmas, 3 Chakmas, 2 Santals, and 2 Garos.

Despite the recent progress of indigenous Jumma women compared to the past, they are still not free from family, social and state inequality, deprivation and oppression, but they are also victims of intense ethnic oppression and communal violence due to state inequality and neglect. In 2021, 15 Jumma women were sexually assaulted by Bengali settlers and security forces. Among them, 4 women including 2 with speech disabilities were raped. There were 10 victims of attempted rape, 4 victims of harassment, 2 victims of abduction, 2 victims of beatings and 1 victim of attempted murder.

The indigenous Jumma society has not yet been freed from the racial oppression and violence against the Jumma people in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. One of the reasons for this is the non-implementation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord signed in 1997 with the aim of resolving the CHT problem through political and peaceful means. There is no alternative to the proper and full implementation of the CHT Agreement in establishing the security, equal rights and dignity of indigenous Jumma women. So, let’s join the greater movement for the implementation of the CHT Accord to establish women’s equal rights in society, and build a society free of discrimination and exploitation of men and women.