SOAS University of London

SOAS South Asia Institute

Contentious Empowerment?: Women as Agents of Change in Bangladesh

Sohela Nazneen, Fellow, Institute of Development Studies

Date: 7 March 2019Time: 7:00 PM

Finishes: 7 March 2019Time: 9:00 PM

Venue: Paul Webley Wing (Senate House) Room: Wolfson Lecture Theatre

Type of Event: Lecture

IMG: 7th march 2019
Photo by Humera Ruf (15) Beckfoot Oakbank School, Keighley, West Yorkshire.


Bangladesh presents an interesting paradox when it comes to women’s political and economic empowerment. Bangladesh has achieved remarkable progress on some fronts, which include a rapid decline gender disparities in education (school enrolment), a rising female labour force participation, a significant reduction in maternal mortality, and a strong numerical presence of women in parliament and local government. However, gender inequalities in some areas remain persistent- apparent in the high levels of malnutrition among women and girls, child marriage, and violence against women. Community and social norms still restrict women’s access to resources and women exercising choice and voice. I highlight the unevenness of progress when it comes to women’s empowerment. Applying a historical lens, I explore the role played by women themselves in making changes happen and women’s movement have negotiated with the Bangladeshi state and national and international actors to secure gender equality outcomes. I also reflect on the national and international factors that created opportunities to promote women’s empowerment, how national and regional economic and political shifts may positively or adversely influence the choices and pathways for Bangladeshi women to advance their interests and change the future.


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Contentious Empowerment?: Women as Agents of Change in Bangladesh


Sohela Nazneen is a fellow based at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), University of Sussex. Before joining to IDS in 2016, Sohela was based at the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh. Sohela’s research largely focuses on women’s economic and political empowerment and feminist movements in South Asia and sub Saharan Africa. She has worked as a consultant for FAO, UNDP, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, CARE and other international agencies-- designing development interventions, conducting policy analysis and programme evaluations. Sohela has published in World Development, Contemporary South Asia and other journals. She is the co-editor of Voicing Demands: Feminist Activism in Transitional Contexts (Zed Books: London, 2014); and the forthcoming book from Routledge – Negotiating Gender Equity in the Global South: The Politics of Domestic Violence Law Making.

Organiser: SOAS South Asia Institute and 7th March Foundation

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