The access to and control over land is the most determining factor in women empowerment besides other factors including their economic security and physical safety. International Day of Rural Women will be observed on Saturday amid extensive programmes across 64 districts of the country. 'Claim Your Right to Land and Inheritance' is the theme of this year.

Beijing women conference in 1995 adopted the proposal for the observation of 15th October as Rural Women Day, later during 2007, UN adopted a resolution for marking the day as International Rural Women Day (IRWD) to celebrate and honour the role of rural women each year.

"Since 2000, in Bangladesh NGOs and members of civil society have marked the day to raise voice for rural women and it is one initiative without any external funding," said Mustafa Kamal Akanda, member secretary of the National Committee to celebrate IRWD.

According to International Labour organisation (ILO), the number of women workers in agricultural sector in Bangladesh is about 43 percent whereas the ownership of women in the sector is about 10 percent. Department of Agriculture Extension says women have 32 percent ownership over land among the private lands.

Article 19 of the Constitution endorses, "the State shall endeavour to ensure equality of opportunity to all citizens." Whereas Article 27 says, "All citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law." Article 28 (1), (2) illustrates, "The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race caste, sex or place of birth," and "Women shall have equal rights with men in all spheres of the State and of public life."

Dewan Kamruzzaman, founder executive director of the National Development Council told 'The Independent' that different international charters and clauses from national constitution state in favour of women's equal rights over land and inheritance, but the reality is different.

"There is no implementation of the constitutional provisions to provide land rights to women. We want constitutional recognition of women rights," said Mustafa Kamal while adding, "There is hardly any evidence of providing land as inheritance to women. This is because of sheer propensity of deception and avarice by the male members of the family." Even the National Women Development Policy, 2008 could not provide adequate explanation of women's rights over land. It should be made clear through rational reforms, he added.

The women's rights to and ownership over purchased land and land from inheritance are needed as women are mostly insecure for economic emancipation, Kamruzzaman said. "In many instances women are being deprived of the inheritance of property after her marriage in the name of religion and social practice. This matter pushes women in the apprehension of insecurity in the matter of economic emancipation," he pointed out.

About 80 percent rural women were engaged in agricultural work. "It seems that agriculture and women are inseparably bound up with each other. But the mockery is that these rural women are deprived of agricultural land. They don't have any control over the lands," said Mustafa.

Kamruzzaman said in many cases the husband sells the family land or when women become widow male members of the family take away their land.

By gaining ownership of rightfully owned land and inherited property, women can be empowered to provide themselves with income and security, decrease poverty and lower the risk of domestic violence, allowing them to be more prosperous and to be better providers for their families, he said.

DHAKA, October 14

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