Bangladesh is in the labyrinth of an autocratic rule. Some call it Bangladesh Krishak Sramik…..
This story is part of a series:
In the previous discussion, I talked about why many women in our Bangali society do not dare to fight or make decision in the family. One reason for not establishing one’s right to express an opinion or make a decision can be poor self-esteem and self-confidence. And this self-esteem and confidence grow from our family.
As we know, society refers to a system in which multiple characters establish specific rules together and create a conducive environment for living together. In a human being, various people form a written or unwritten tradition of living together, which means I, you, and all of us are part of this society.
And I think the family plays a significant role in forming our unity, feeling, thought, attitude, judgment, tolerance, and civilization in the formation of this society. Because, we start learning to think from the family.
The family system is introduced in the world in one way or another from the beginning of human life. Human civilization can’t be an image without family, especially in our Bengali society and culture, where the family foundation is solid. Peace and order, stability, progress, family well-being and determination are primarily dependent on personal life and society. So again, If family life is in turmoil, there is a lot of unrest and disturbance in our personal and social lives.
So, what I mean is, a cheerful family can help us to think healthily, and healthy thought plays a vital role in building up our self-confidence, self-esteem and shaping society in all aspects.
So, let me start with my family! How did my family look alike? If I thought from the point of view of that child 30 years ago, I must say that I had a happy family. There was no evil in my family.
I had a joint family. I saw my widow Aunt living with us with her four sons and one daughter. Aunt was speech impaired. Probably this was a factor as to why her husband left her and had a second wife. Then my father took charge of my aunt with her children. My grandmother was alive then.
When I was in middle school, my older sister became a widow with two children and became a part of our family. In the end, my grandmother also joined our family. So I can claim that mixing with others, getting together, sharing, sharing – I learned from my family.
I grew up in a family where many homeworking people took place to take care of us. In addition, my family had many employees due to the business, flower garden, and cattle care. In all, the number of joint families people was around 40. Right now, it is even more.
As a child, I saw everyone in our family sitting and eating together. We used to share happiness and sorrow. We used to be supportive of each other, which is not seen in many families now. It can be that the joint family is now extinct due to the demands of the time.
My parents use to provide the same amount of food, medical care, shelter to homeworking people. They even offered food, medical treatment, and financial support to the unique members of their families.
However, I never liked that the homeworking people would never sit next to us and have their meal. My family provided them nice and good quality clothes, but they were not allowed to have the same clothes like us.
Their clothes were different in colors and designs than ours. They always ate in the kitchen or their room. Even today, when I go to my country, I sit next to them and talk or eat with them. I still observe my family people get surprised. They work all day in our house. They received all kinds of care, including pay, but this segregation and class inequality still hurt me. Segregation and inequality exist not only in my family but in every family in Bangladesh.
On the contrary, homeworking people get killed in some families. They get burned, are not given adequate food and medical treatment, and are don’t get paid enough. Compared to that, my family deserves a lot of praise.
Back then, there was a big difference between the boy and the girl child in some families regarding enjoying freedom and different opportunities. My family was no exception. The boys could go out alone, go to the cinema, get involved in a relationship, sit on the roof of the house and watch the afternoon sky. They had somewhat living freedom, but the girls were not allowed to do all these. As a result, there was no friendship between the boys and girls. Although my family had no problem with this, I had company with both boys and girls. However, in most families, parents set strict rules. Much has changed over time; still, the same practice exists in many families.
If I think of the rights of a child in the family, then I must admit that we had no right to live as a child under the control of our parents. They did not know the definition of a child’s rights. They also had no idea that children need space to talk. They have the right to express opinions or make decisions in the family. They considered child care to provide food, shelter, medical care, and all the means to improve education. Children used to be forced by parents to obey the rules.
Growing up with certain limitations in the family, a girl child struggles to be aware of her independence and rights later on in life. In other words, they are afraid to assert their freedom and rights because their confidence and self-respect didn’t grow up at a young age.
Then comes the struggle of the girl’s new family life. In our society, marriage means separation from a woman’s parents. So the husband and his family became the natural abode of a woman. At the time of marriage, the family would tell the girls, ‘Obey your husband, and we are not one of you now; the people of the husband’s house are your relatives.’
So in married life, they fail to express their will and reluctance. All the time, they have thoughts to make the new family happy. Caring for family members becomes their primary responsibility. The husband is the leading decision-maker in the family.
When I saw my mother and grandmother, their role in the family was to cook, keep the house clean, give birth and nurture children, follow the husband’s direction, and take care of other people in the place. They did not have the right to express opinions, the right to have education or action, the right to enjoy, the right to self-determination, the right to make decisions. Or even if they knew, they wouldn’t think about it.
Women’s education and jobs were not necessary at that time. They were happily living with food, clothing, medical care, shelter. So maybe I still hear from people in the society; ‘the fewer women understand, the better.”
My family advised me the same. I was not even eighteen when I got married over the telephone. I was living in Bangladesh then, and my husband was in America. My older sister was not married yet. Why I got married so soon, that’s another story! I might discuss it later! Or maybe never! But that’s true that I never had any feeling for why I was getting married early—what a surprise.
Even in the most unfavorable situation, I never shared anything with my parents because, by that time, I already learned that my parents are no longer my family. It is a shame and a crime to say something nasty or complain to parents or others about the husband’s family because this will humiliate them. In other words, our parents never gave us a chance to complain about our husband and his family’s attitude. Not being able to speak to our parents, many girls have died due to domestic violence, and it is still ongoing. All these family prejudices still exist in our society.
Although family and social awareness have increased somewhat overtime today, I saw a different picture twenty-two years ago. Today, the children of my family have the right and courage to speak freely, but I did not have that opportunity at that time. You might think that in our society now, women are carrying their rights or freedom. Not at all. You can assume that awareness has increased a bit.
Even today, in many families, a woman is not allowed to study or work after marriage. Because their husband and family think, if women are more successful in life, the more they create unrest in the family. Many families believe that education and employment increase the risk of divorce. Therefore, even in the zero decades of the 21st century, women cannot complete their education after marriage. Some families can achieve their minimum or higher education, but they can’t go to work.
Although women have made great strides in education in Bangladesh, teen girls are still dropping out of school and learning household chores in rural areas. Yet, in many families, women’s responsibilities after marriage are limited to family care, listening to the husband, caring for the husband’s family, and raising children. In addition, child marriage still exists in rural areas. Therefore, how will they be established? Where is the chance?
Women’s education and the workplace have changed drastically over the ages; women have learned to earn, but earning women are still deprived of freedom of speech, expression, and decision-making in many families.
Have women become wholly independent or empowered? I will discuss this in the next episode.
We need the courage to talk about our rights, to fight for our freedom. That courage comes from our self-confidence. When a baby girl grows up with some limitations in her family and never gets a chance to express her opinions and feelings, and lives with fear, which means her family neglects her. And she lost her confidence- self-respect.
When that baby girl enters into married life, she is still afraid to talk about her rights and freedoms. So fails to establish herself. And she who has no achievement of her own, can not self-reliant, how will she fight?
The confidence of women in Bangladesh is weak since their early age. One can reach the destination after struggling in life; one can be successful. But not everyone.
However, I was happy in the family. Looking back today, all the questions that arose never came to my mind at that time. Maybe it was because I was young then or because I didn’t see the whole world from a particular perspective; what I had or what I got was enjoyable.
Today, nearly forty, I stand in the valley of death and try to draw a picture of my life in the sky. I do not dare to write an autobiography because, It will depict a lot of unwanted scenes, which is painful. However, some truths call into question family beliefs, civilization, and culture still hurt me.
Stay tuned and happy reading.