Contextual Dimension of Women Leaders in Bangladesh and West Bengal

Scientific Essay, 2013

26 Pages



1. Introduction

2. Objectives of the Study

3. Methodology of the Study

4. Scope of the Study

5. The Rationale Behind Examining the Contextual Dimension of Women Leadership in Bangladesh and West Bengal, India

6. Aspect of Women Leadership

7. Contextual Dimension of Women Leadership in Bangladesh and West Bengal
7.1 Contextual Dimension of Women Leadership in Bangladesh
7.2 Contextual Dimension of Women Leadership in West Bengal

8. Summary of the Contextual Dimensions of Women Leadership in Bangladesh West Bengal
8.a) Bangladesh Part
8.b) West Bengal Part

9. Similarity and Dissimilarity in the Contextual Dimension of Women Leadership in Bangladesh and West Bengal
9.a) Similarity in the Contextual Dimension of Women Leadership
9.b) Dissimilarity in the Contextual Dimension of Women Leadership

10. Unique Feature of Emergence of Women Leadership In Bangladesh and West Bengal
10.a) Bangladesh Part
10.b) West Bengal Part

11. Some Suggestions for Women Leaders of both Bangladesh and West Bengal, India


Name of The Experts Consulted For The Study

Bangladesh Part

West Bengal Part

1. Introduction

It is an axiomatic fact that women leadership does not grow automatically rather it grows with the dynamic process of socio-cultural development of the country. Bangladesh and West Bengal, having a traditional socio-economic structure, do not have regular and systematic process of political participation of women, which is directly or indirectly linked to patriarchal values and kinship ties. Despite that in the recent days, numbers of women leaders at the grassroots level local government of both geographical areas have increased remarkably due to some change in the socio-cultural contexts and dimensions. Therefore, it deserves academic analysis and interpretation to delve into the dynamics and process of socio-cultural context that have contributed for the development of women leadership in both cases.

2. Objectives of the Study

The general objective of the study is to delve into the contextual dimensions for emergence of the women leadership in the grassroots based local government in Bangladesh and West Bengal, India. The specific objectives of the study are:

i. To examine the social, political, economic and legal aspects for emergence of the women leadership in grassroots based local government of Bangladesh and West Bengal, India;
ii. To identify the similarity and unique feature of emergence of women leadership at local government in both the cases;
iii. To suggest some policy options for strengthening the role of women leaders in local governments in both cases.

3. Methodology of the Study

To understand the dynamics, issues and process of women leadership in the rural local government of Bangladesh (Union Parishad) and West Bengal (Gram Panchayats) information were collected through expert consultation and content analysis. Based on a short checklist for both Bangladesh and West Bengal some eminent gender specialists, social and political scientists, academicians and professionals who have comprehensive knowledge on the cognate areas of were chosen in consultation with some key experts of both the areas. Experts were consulted using a pre-tested checklist containing a few core questions designed in light with the purposes and objectives of the study.

4. Scope of the Study

The scope of the study was limited to some particular issues. To examine the dynamics, extent and process for growing women leadership in general than that of rural local government, an attempt was made to assess the social, economic, cultural and political contexts of Bangladesh and West Bengal. To identify the contextual aspects of women leadership, some specific quarries such as i) what and how socio-economic and cultural contexts and value system influenced develop women leadership; ii) how political participation and mobilization helped to change the contexts and iii) how legal aspect helped grow women leadership were made. The time frame for analyzing the contextual aspects of women leadership was preferably confined from seventies to nineties because during the stipulated period some significant breakthrough in the firmament of socio-political milieu as well as major landmark incidents relating to the development of women leadership at the grassroots based local governments took place in both Bangladesh and West Bengal.

5. The Rationale Behind Examining the Contextual Dimension of Women Leadership in Bangladesh and West Bengal, India

Bangladesh and West Bengal of India share some commonalities in their historical, cultural, socio-economic systems. From historical perspectives both geographic areas experienced colonialism and were ruled by different kings and dynasties among which the British colonialism prolonged for the longest period of about more than two hundred years, who ruled the then subcontinent what at present constituted three sovereign states namely, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. In 1947, the undivided subcontinent was divided in to two different states - India and Pakistan. After the creation of Pakistan instead of Bengal, East Bengal and West Bengal connotations came into being. In 1971, East Bengal again achieved its independence from Pakistan and was renamed as Bangladesh.

Both areas share some common socio-economic and cultural similarities. The commonality of socio-economic features can be found in varying degrees in some areas such as widespread poverty, low level of living, income, literacy and education, over population, unemployment, underemployment, lawlessness, high mortality, socio-political unrest, existence of dualistic socio-economic systems, inappropriate and inadequate technologies and institutions etc.

In all Indian context other relatively successful cases of local governments belong to Panjab, Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra and so on in which women are playing vital role in the spheres of rural local governments. But the socio-economic, political and cultural systems of those areas are quite dissimilar, incongruent and diversified in nature than those of Bangladesh and West Bengal. Therefore, it would not be meaningful and useful to make a comparison between Bangladesh and any one of those aforesaid areas. Lastly, comparing to Bangladesh case political participation of women in Gram Panchayets system in West Bengal is greater and local governments have achieved a little more success than that of Bangladesh case. Therefore, with a view to utilizing the experiences of West Bengal the comparison between Bangladesh and West Bengal has been made.

In critical analysis both Bengals shared the above-mentioned commonalities up to the partition of this sub-continent. But after 1947, East and West Bengal, to some extent, began to diverge in its broad socio-economic and cultural profiles. During this time West Bengal being the part of India began to achieve the characteristics of a state through having a regular and sustained political process. In case of East Bengal what now constituted Bangladesh began to struggle for having a sustained democratic process but all efforts were in vain due to weak socio-economic and political institutions and absence of regular political process which were transformed into frequent military interventions till late sixties. Due to massive socio-economic and cultural oppressions and exploitations, East Bengal opted for separation that resulted in independence through a nine months bloody war with Pakistan in 1971.

After the independence Bangladesh government undertook several reform measures to overhaul its social, economic, cultural and political structures with the basic premise for building an egalitarian, exploitation free, prosperous and progressive nation state. But due to massive failure and dissatisfactions for meeting up the revolution of rising demands and aspirations of the people, arising out from the independence movement, the successive democratic government ended with the brutal killing of civilian ruler by a sudden military crackdown in 1975. The similar trends continued up to fall of Earshad regime through a mass upsurge in 1990. With the frequent military interventions progressive socio-economic trends were destabilized in Bangladesh. After that again representative politics was revived in 1991, which continued up to three consecutive terms with an unstable and a malfunctioning parliament and weak political process. On the other hand, except a short disturbance of presidential ruling, democratic process in West Bengal has been continuing on a regular and sustained basis since 1947. But the landmark history in West Bengal was the coming of left governments in 1977 that have been continuing till date with secular, stable and progressive political trends.

6. Aspect of Women Leadership

Instead of an automatic process, all over the world, irrespective of country specifications - developed and developing- women leadership grows everywhere with the positive impetus and dynamic process of socio-cultural development of the country. A lot of factors affect the process, nature, extent and dynamics of women's participation in public life in both Bangladesh and West Bengal. Innumerable factors like psychological, psycho-somatic, attitudinal, social, political, cultural, economical, religious, organizational and institutional factors influence the process of political participation and emergence of women leadership. The development of women leadership are intricately interrelated with the prevailing social, cultural, economic and political context of a country. Hanna Papanek (1975:220-222) discloses that there are two different ways for women's development. The first ways for women development is to give priority to change the situation of women by accepting existing social, economic and political structures. To change the situation of the women the second alternative necessitates general transformation of the existing socio-economic structures. According to Papanek (1975:220-222) the second case is relevant to the third world countries. For having a systematic analysis of the contextual dimension of women leadership, the contexts have been divided into socio- cultural, economic, political and legal contexts.

7. Contextual Dimension of Women Leadership in Bangladesh and West Bengal

7.1 Contextual Dimension of Women Leadership in Bangladesh

7.1.a) Socio-Cultural Context

The socio-cultural contexts are quite important to understand the political participation of women. In countries where culture and society are heavily textured by patriarchal and traditional values, it is necessary to look into the issues or causes that in turn, help promote and create an enabling environment to enter women in the structure of power and decision-making process. In general women have lack of access to the resources in family and state i.e. education, ownership and employment that limit their opportunities to enter avenues leading to the political arena (Chowdhury, 1994c). Lehary and Ahmed (2001:8) also view that women are unequal due to their dependent socio-economic status, lower education, less mobility, social, cultural and religious customs. In the cultural realm women are subjugated by men, which is well entrenched in habits, belief, custom, feeling, thinking, art, morals, law etc. of the Bangladesh society (Khanam et. al., 1996: 22). The socio-cultural impediments behind women empowerment and their coming into public domain, have recently been changed to some extent due to development of some aspects of socio-cultural phenomena, which are described beneath.

Cultural liberalization i.e. liberal norms, attitude, belief and culture help emergence of women leadership. Talukder Moniruzzaman expresses that Bengali speaking Muslims are basically liberal minded. The fundamental cause of developing women leadership, as enunciated by Moniruzzaman, lies with the fact that "women in Bangladesh are moderate and quickly adaptive. Women are not that much conservative and traditional as the so-called progressive people tried to establish about these Muslims. Bangladesh society is not as patriarchal as it is deemed". Though Khanam et. al. (1996: 24) view that due to religious reasons, women in Muslim states are strictly excluded from politics but Moniruzzaman opines that in Bangladesh religion always help people to continue their life where religion never create problems in way of women development and empowerment.

Cataclysmic development of science, technology and ITC revolution helped changing mind-set of women, which affects development process of women. In the late 70s and early 80s there emerged a massive change in the global communication system. TV, VCR, radio, two-in-one, cassette recorder and daily newspapers were more or less available to the rural women. The information revolution facilitated women for getting modern and up-to-date knowledge that had made a positive impact in the thinking process of women. In this regard Moniruzzaman elucidates that during the Ayub Khan regime transistor played an important role for developing rural women in changing their attitude by listening to family planning programmes broadcasted from the Radio Pakistan or East Pakistan broadcasting center. During Bangladesh period another Bangladesh Television’s (BTV) popular and educative programme on agricultural economics named "Mati O Manush (Soil and Man)", possibly helped make an ever-lasting impression in the mind-set of rural women folk. According to Moniruzzaman, Shaikh Siraj, the presenter of that programme, was one of the masterminds of women development in rural Bangladesh. Watching this programme women got involved in various income generating activities which helped some women to bring economic emancipation what actually facilitated growing women leadership in Bangladesh.


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Contextual Dimension of Women Leaders in Bangladesh and West Bengal
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Md. Mizanur Rahman (Author), 2013, Contextual Dimension of Women Leaders in Bangladesh and West Bengal, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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