Indigenous women's representation in policymaking is essential in order to ensure their rights, said speakers at a discussion yesterday.
They also said the government has to be more active in ensuring rights of all women and implementing the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Peace Accord.
The rights activists placed 11 points of recommendations including exemplary punishment to perpetrators of rape on women and children, incorporating indigenous women in policymaking and ensuring women's representation in the parliament and local governments based on region.
The discussion was jointly organised by Bangladesh Adivasi Nari Network and Hill Women's Federation (HWF), marking the International Women's Day at Liberation War Museum in the capital's Agargaon.
Noted columnist Syed Abul Maksud during the discussion said, “The number of women in different sectors is rising, but such increase will not usher in progress for them unless they can represent in the policymaking levels.”
“If the country wants to progress, its focus needs to be on women,” he added.
General Secretary of Bangladesh Adivasi Forum Sanjeeb Drong said as opposed to a patriarchal society that tries to dominate women, a maternal society such as the ones in indigenous communities promotes empowerment of women.
The reason for the absence of dowry in maternal societies in indigenous communities is that they practise respecting women in every sphere of their lives.
Dr Zobaiyda Nasreen, an associate professor at Dhaka University, said the CHT Regional Council lacks sufficient representation of women. “It is very important to have women in the policymaking section.”
Remembering the history of International Women's Day and the contribution of torchbearers in women's rights movement, Coordinator of Bangladesh Adivasi Nari Network Falgulni Tripura said, “Although women have contributed in different arenas of the society, they are still neglected.”
Referring to a report prepared by an indigenous rights organisation, Kapaeeng Foundation, she said, “In 2016, at least 14 Jummo women and children became victims of rape, 6 suffered attempts of rape, 3 suffered sexual harassment and 1 had been abducted.”
Presenting the keynote speech, Falgulni lamented that justice is yet to be served to a number of indigenous women activists including Kalpana Chakma.
Emphasising on the implementation of the CHT Peace Accord, Deputy Executive Director of Association for Land Reform and Development (ALRD) Rowshan Jahan Moni said indigenous women should come forward and raise their voice to secure their own rights.
Joint Convener of Bangladesh Adivasi Nari Network Rakhi Mrong, Senior Programme Manager of Manusher Jonno Foundation Evelina Chakma and Information and Publication Secretary of Bangladesh Adivasi Forum Dipayan Khisa were present among others.