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Rowing for equality

A hundred and thirty three women in Kaligram village, south Bangladesh, celebrate International Women’s Day every year to raise awareness of women’s rights. 

The women are all members of the Art Forum, a women’s collective supported by our partner the Christian Commission for Development (CCDB) that works to help them overcome poverty. An essential element in achieving this is empowerment.

Last year, the women rowed boats to mark the day. In Kaligram men always row boats and it’s considered taboo for women to do this – so the sight of all them rowing along the river was very thought-provoking and challenged assumptions about the role of women.

Monoroma Kunda, 49, a long-standing member of the forum says that she feels great pride parading with the other women and that these days are always a success. As she explains, ‘It’s thanks to events like these that people believe that men and women are equal and both deserve justice’.

CCDB, our longest-term partner in Bangladesh, works with women living in poverty in rural areas of Bangladesh to make very real changes to their lives.

It currently supports 7,000 women in 10 different districts to run forums (small-scale credit and loaning groups made up of approximately 100 women working together). CCDB has strong relationships with these women’s groups, and has worked with many of them for over 15 years.

The collectives are also multi-faith bringing Muslim, Christian and Hindus together to fight for long-term sustainable change

Monoroma Kunda, another member of Art Forum, says that rather than creating divisions within the group, religion brings the women together. ‘We pray to God at the beginning of each meeting. We say the same prayer to different gods. However, we are all the same. We are all friends in the group’.

Looking to the future

As the women prepare themselves for this year’s parades and races, they think about the future.

The women pride themselves in organising and running their groups independently. Their hope is that soon these groups will continue without Christian Aid and CCDB’s support and become self-reliant.

As Monoroma says, ‘this is just the beginning… the forum is like a child to me, I want to make it grow.’


Listen: Bangladesh podcast

Listen to Christian Aid's Gen Lomax speak about her visit to Bangladesh (2mins 42 secs):


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