July 2008

Women’s Empowerment, Bangladesh

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ICTs can create conducive and enabling environments that extend communication and accessibility infrastructure to women

Introduction 

Social development at individual and collective level is fundamentally dependent on 'knowledge' through sharing of information, transfer of skills and augmentation of technology. This is also a pathway for the evolving process of globalisation. In the present context, ICT in all its various forms is playing a pivotal role in human development at community, national and international levels.

However, the pursuit of correct knowledge through ICT has become a recurring challenge towards gathering intelligence because of information overload consisting of ideas, opinions and views that may not confirm information but rather express attitudes of a few trying to influence many. Gender, especially women's, emancipation has sadly culminated to such a level. Women and their betterment require comprehensively objective analysis and understanding of history, traditions, values and cultures that contribute towards shaping their lives. Relevant issues pertaining to women and their development need to be cognizant of contextual factors like family and societal dynamics, ethnic diversity and the influences of the immediate vicinity that shape collective behaviour. 

While a generic definition is needed for problem identification and cohesive action, it should not completely eliminate the bridging agent that is based on 'faith.'  Erudite minds all over the world are now deliberating on the significance of faith in dealing with critical socio-economic and cultural factors relating to gender issues.  Traditions and values that have mostly originated from faiths are often misinterpreted as obstacles in the way of human development.  But true knowledge can recognise the potential strength of faith based traditions and expand processes that capitalise on it for diminishing gender biases. For example, human and humanity is the essence in any faith, and it is from this perspective that an individual's position is delineated within the context of family, community and nation. As such exploitation in any form has always been ostracised by different faiths and this very exponent overarches the principles of gender bias and promotes an individual's rights based status.

Any knowledge has two aspects- theoretical and empirical. Theories are static. They provide concepts but until they are applied these do not have much substance.  Empirical or applied knowledge is evidence-based; thus its uniqueness emerges from acknowledging diversity, respecting individual needs and effectively extending the knowledge gathered thereof. When transferred into the various modes of ICT it becomes a resource base of vital information that has the capacity of drawing attention to concerns that impact humanity – for example gender bias.

Gender awareness via ICT

In the context of Bangladesh, ICT has played a prominent role in a succession of programmes for mass awareness. Radio and TV were the initial mode of ICT in the country that contributed immensely to behavioral change, specifically on gender based topics. We will briefly examine the progress of ICT in social development focusing on women

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