“About 80% of the total population of Bangladesh live at villages among them 51% is women and 49% men. So, if the women are excluded from the development initiatives real development could hardly be done in the state. Therefore, initiative needs to be taken to empower women and recognize their works and contribution for real development and ensure food security”-said the UNO (Upozila Nirbahi Officer) of Atpara under Netrakona district in a program arranged by BARCIK and Shunoi Union Parisad to mark the international day of rural women on 15 October, 2012.

In order to discuss and disseminate the theme of the day which is “Empower Rural Women, End Hunger and Poverty” different sorts of activities were conducted such as rally, discussion, seed exchange and cultural function. Government and non-governmental organizations’ representatives, women, farmers, students, teachers, journalists, fishers and other occupational groups participated in the activities arranged by the organizers to express solidarity with rural women’s struggle.

Inaugurating the event, UNO of Atpara Md Abdul Awal said, “Approximately 80% of the total population lives in the remote village areas. Among the population women are 51%. In order to make the overall development of the state women should be included in the process. They should be given opportunity in education and other skill development activities so that they could be empowered.” He said, “Excluding women in the process would worsen the development initiative. Women play vital role in livestock rearing, agriculture along with their household works. Their works should be recognized”.

Upozila agriculture officer Azizur Rahman said, “Women play important role in agriculture sector such as seed conservation, crop processing and some other important works. They have load of works but still manage time to do that to encourage men”. He went on saying “Without ensuring the participation of women in the income generating activities and other skill development programs we will not be able to meet success in fighting against hunger and poverty”. Describing her daily works, Hawa Begum, a woman farmer said, “My work starts in the early morning and ends at midnight but the society does not measure our works economically. We, women have to do load of works. We have to do extra 50% of works in comparison to men but our works are not recognized”. Supporting what Hawa Begum mentioned farmer A. Wadud said, “We need to recognize the work and role of women in the society. They play significant role to fight against poverty and hunger by producing vegetable, collecting uncultivated foodstuffs from the nature and by conserving seeds.”

Demanding to assist rural women perceiving their rights in the society Fauzia Nasreen said, “Living in a patriarchal society sometimes women are sidelined, particularly in decision making process and in direct income generating activities leading them to be still in the backward position.” She went on saying, “It is now the time to think about facilitating rural women’s empowerment process to create a real development. Therefore, the male counterpart should come forward to assist them establishing their right and get empowered. Shunoi Union Parsad Chairman Shanowar Uddin, acting as president of the discussion session, in his concluding speech said, “In order to help rural women and empower them, discussion and awareness activities should be conducted in village levels where those women can participate and realize their rights. If the women are empowered, they can contribute more to produce diverse crops in their homestead garden and conserve seed which ensure environmental sustainability as well.”

However, before the discussion, a rally was organized where people of almost all stakes participated and uttered various slogans demanding to facilitate women establishing their rights, recognition of the works of women and inclusion of women in all kinds of activities that accelerate their empowerment process. Among other activities in the whole event include: Quiz competition, tree plantation, seed exchange, cultural function, sports etc. The winners of in the quizs and sports were given unique prizes which were local varieties of crops and trees seeds. This unque prizes were given just to encourage them about protecting environment and conserving biodiversity that BARCIK has been facilitating various occupational since its intervention in the area. BARCIK staff Md Alamgir coordinated and conducted the whole activities of the event including other BARCIK staffs.

However, it is very important to facilitate rural women getting recognition of their works and have access to various skill development programs. If they are facilitated and empowered they would be more capable to continue their hard works to fight against hunger and poverty. Excluding them from the process would worsen the situation of the state. UN General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon thus said on the eve of international rural women day “Empowering rural women is crucial for ending hunger and poverty. By denying women rights and opportunities, we deny their children and societies a better future. This is why the United Nations recently launched a program to empower rural women and enhance food security”. So let us stay besides rural women and help them to be empowered.

Joba Talukder