"To me International Women's day is a day to celebrate all the incredible women around the world regardless of their professional status, personal success or nationality," said Maria Howlader FCA, chairperson of Women Leadership Committee of South Asian Federation of Accountants (SAFA) in an interview with the FE on the occasion of the International Women's Day.
Ms Maria said the day puts the spotlight on the achievements of women and celebrates what is uniquely special about them. It is important to celebrate the day because it encourages women to fight for more freedom and equal rights.
"I would say there should be an end to discrimination against women. They should also equal opportunities and enough space to thrive and grow," she said.
Ms Maria is also a council member of ICAB (Institute of Chartered Accountants of Bangladesh).
She said although women's social and economic participation in the work environment has advanced substantially in the last few decades, negative gender stereotypes persist. Women face a range of subtle barriers associated with their gender (e.g. gender role assumptions) when participating in the labour market, either through employment or self-employment.
"Further, if you ask me to define women empowerment, I would say that it should include the process where women have the right to plan and make decisions in all areas of their lives, including education, health, career choices and to establish equal rights in all fairness. But the reality is that the freedom to make own decisions about women's lives is still limited in Bangladesh. Many qualified women still do not get a chance to establish their opinion even if they want to. Rather they face severe obstacles from family, society, and the state in any work. Job opportunities are still not equal. Now a days women are getting more interest in doing their own business and become entrepreneurs but in this case also they are facing many difficulties in getting finance.
I think increased education opportunities, more participation in politics, policy for more participation of women at the board level, change of conservative mentality, introduction of laws protecting women's interests, recognition of women's work, promoting entrepreneurship by easing finance facilities are essential for women empowerment and development. The initiatives should be taken and monitored from both government, society level and personal level. Also I think the successful women should come forward to help young girls and women to become successful easily. Entrepreneurs both man and women have a huge role to play to overcome obstacles for the women."
Speaking on the role of women leaders to uphold the cause of women, Ms Maria said women should be leaders because they have a right to be. Fifty per cent of leaders should be women because they are almost 50 per cent of the population. I think the pandemic has been a fascinating, unintentional experiment perhaps providing us with data on whether male or female leadership is better during crisis. "And there's data showing that, if you measure success in handling the pandemic by saving lives, women leaders are doing a better job. Now it is needed to be perceived the potentialities of women that could ensure a world equal for men and women. We should do more work together to establish equal contribution of women and men to every dimension of life, whether private or public," she said.
Ms Maria said she has the following message for women on the occasion of IWD: For the women folk I would say -- its your right to participate and work hard on becoming successful. No one can stop you unless you stop yourself. There are lots of opportunities for us which we need to utilise while dealing with challenges. We just need to be confident and work hard to break the barriers.
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