DHAKA- The country's enduring soothing breeze of women empowerment also touches different ethnic groups in three hilly districts, called as Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT).
The women belonging to different indigenous groups, once who were lagging behind of development, are now advancing themselves like almost the same pace with mainstream womenfolk of the country.
It is amazing to see that student ratio at different schools and colleges in the CHT are in favour of girls. "The numbers of girls are higher than the boys at most of the educational institutes in CHT," said Women Affairs Officer of Khagrachhari district Madhabi Borua citing statistics.
She said girls of ethnic groups are giving more importance in education than the boys and it is reflected into the overall women empowerment in different indigenous communities.
Referring to various ongoing women development programmes taken by the present government, Madhabi said the government is giving technical training as well as providing microcredit to the women here to make them self- sufficient.
"The initiatives are helping local women to a great extent in achieving a respectable position in the society," she said adding in just a few years back, women were at the backseat of development endeavor of ethnic groups.
But the situation has been changed during the last couple of years. Currently, many indigenous women are entering into the mainstream workforce after completing their higher secondary education and many of them even with higher education from the country's reputed universities.
"I would like to build up my career in this hilly district. I can enjoy all kinds of government facilities from this remote district," said Mili Tripura, a health educationist working in Modern Hospital in Khagrachhari district.
Mili, who graduated from Jahangirnagar University said, "Presently I can buy quality products like dresses or crockery from online shopping. I don't need to go to Chittagong city for shopping. I just need money to buy quality stuffs and I am earning this from my job here."
Happy Tripura, another lady from one of the ethnic groups who graduated from Dhaka University said, "There are not so much differences in lifestyle of educated women between plain land and hilly areas. Rather we are getting more facilities from our workplace here compare to the same as plain lands."
Although education and other opportunities changes lifestyle of indigenous women, the women development has not been taken place at a same pace among all the ethnic communities in the CHT region.
Khagrachari Nagar Social Welfare Officer Rokeya Begum said woman of the Chakma tribe are far advanced in regard of their empowerment compare to other ethnic groups. "As they (Chakma women) are more educated, they take more government facilities to uplift their living standard," she said.
Vice Chairman of Khagrachhari Sadar Upazila Beauty Rani Tripira said "Previously women of ethnic groups didn't have the capability to take their own decisions. But currently, they are participating in different development programmes of the government. They are achieving self-sufficiency gradually."
Previously, she said the indigenous girls made their traditional clothe "Tinom" for their own need but now they are producing "Tinom" as commercial basis with the help of some Non-Government Organisations(NGOs).
"Upazila Parishad is also providing support to them. The tribal women are also getting different training from youth development department. These kinds of initiatives helped the ethnic women a lot to attain their financial empowerment," she added.
Bandarban Thanchi Upazila women Vice Chairman Bokuli Marma said, "Earlier the indigenous women have no idea about women empowerment. Now they have learnt about their rights. They are going to job market with education. Upazila Parishad is providing them all necessary supports to this end."
Bangladesh made huge progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). According to the UN evaluation report on MDG, published in November last year, Bangladesh made the highest progress in attaining MDG on women empowerment in South Asia.
The government attaches special attention for ensuring development of ethnic women in its National Women Development Policy-2011. The policy gives guideline to take various initiatives so that the women of ethnic groups can improve their living standard without shackling their tradition and culture.
Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)