Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina cracked up journalists during a conference yesterday saying the country might soon see men's rights movements pop up, considering the progress made in women's rights.
Hasina, who won the Global Women's Leadership Award for outstanding leadership in advancing women education and women entrepreneurs in Bangladesh, Asia and the Asia-pacific region on Friday, was speaking to journalists at her official residence Ganabhaban.
She added that in case of such movements by men, she was willing to stand by their side as well. Journalists broke into laughter at her remark.
Farida Yasmin, the first female general secretary of the National Press Club, asked the prime minister whether the government would take initiatives to change the many hurdles women faced in every step, and the negative mindset of men.
Prime Minister Hasina pointed out that as a policy-maker she had faced much resistance with her steps to empower women. She mentioned issues with introducing reserved women's seats in the Union Parishads, the female football team; she talked about her own struggles as a woman in politics.
“Women will have to tackle all of these hurdles with confidence and determination,” she said.
Bangladeshi society was much more conservative, Hasina said.
“The negative mindset you are talking about, you have to put that in perspective. When I introduced women's seats in the Union Parishad, there was so much controversy about whether they should participate,” she said.
“Jamaat and other parties resisted a lot. The female candidates' families were also against it. But I knew that those who were in opposition today would be out campaigning tomorrow.”
“When the election came, the in-laws who were against the women in UP, they lit torches and went from door to door asking for votes for her. Change does not happen in a day.”
Hasina told Farida Yasmin it was no small feat for a woman to become a leader of the Press Club.
“Laws and enforcement alone will not help us with women's empowerment. We need perseverence and hard work,” she said.
“If we keep demanding for rights, and then want everything separate for women, how are we going to show strength? We need to have self-esteem and confidence.”
“As a woman, I will say – it will not help us to just shout for women's empowerment, we have to earn it.”
“Although soon we might see men's rights movements pop up. That's no problem, I'm for men's rights too,” she said.