Publication Date

2000

Abstract

In 1997, the government of Bangladesh amended the constitution to ensure that the poor women would participate in local government. It mandated that out of twelve member of Union Parisad, three women must be elected. The 1997 UP elections were a glorious victory for the thirty-six formerly destitute women elected as UP member. Bangladeshi present social structure exploits women's labor instead of providing them with any constructive alternative. This study intended to identify how these destitute women ran for and became elected to the UP and identify the factors, which enabled them to make an important shift in Bangladesh's socio-political situation. I conducted in depth interviews with six members to learn from respondent's own words about their paths to successes. When I try to look at the six women's response on their socialization and transformational process, I found an interesting story, which includes the following aspects: These former destitute women were forced to come out and to participate in work outside the home due to economic hardship, but this difficult situation helped them to face the challenges of the outside world. These women did not allow themselves to remain restricted to the opportunity traditionally given women by the society. They used their own tactics to improve their capacity to build their self-confidence and social relations with others. The respondents gave more emphasis on the non-monetary strategies for achieving political office, like door to door contact and involvement with community members through diverse work in the community. Since their situation pushed them to find a job for their survival, but these women could therefore exercise household decision making power, which helped them to build their capacity to participate in the public sphere of the society. As these women enjoyed the decision making power at the household level, this experience equipped them to participate in the broader society. The women's diverse working experience in the community helped them to gain the skills and attitudes needed to succeed. Though they were not directly involved in politics, four members mentioned that they did participate in election campaigns for others. They knew the process of how to run a campaign and how to approach the voters and ask for their vote. Respondents received the training on Income Generating Activities and life management. This training improve the skill of respondents so that they do not return to the state of destitution. In conclusion, I can say though this study explored the individual level experiences of the respondents, it also tells the story of the possibility of personal and societal transformation of poor, rural women in general. The paper discusses the various factors, which contributed to the respondents winning a position.

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