Women, Food Security & Religion
Study after study has shown that while men tend to spend only about 30-40% of their income on their family, even while the overall income of the family is not enough to meet their needs, women spend over 90% of their income on the family. When women have control over their income, their families needs are met better, their children are better fed and more likely to be educated. Yet, studies have also shown that a large number of women and I am talking of a REALLY large percentage here, do not have control over their OWN income. This is specially true for women who are married but this phenomenon is not just true in the developing world, it happens even in the most developed countries.
In the country that I live in and in the work that I do, I see these women all the time. A significantly large portion of the population still lives below the poverty line. A significant portion of children are still malnourished. There are miles to go before we can rest easy and claim to be truly food secure. Yet yesterday’s shut-down and the 13 point demand of the religious extremists really drove home the point that religion is being used in this country to drag us back by thousands of years. If the demands of these men are to be met, then women will cover up and stay inside the four walls of their home. And I wonder do these men even realize what they are asking for? They are asking for generations of children to grow up, malnourished and uneducated?
Half the farm labors in this country are women. While the men are hunting for work in big cities, it is the women who are tending to the fields, raising cattle, feeding and keeping the families together. It is hard enough for these women to interact with the formal market, to impose a restriction like this… who is going to keep the agro-economy going? Where do these men think they are going to get the rice that they eat in every meal?
I haven’t even mentioned the ready-made garment industry yet. The big thing that brings in more money, the jewel in Bangladesh’s crown. Who works in these factories? Women. It is women and millions of them that keep these garment factories running. That provide the hard labor that goes into shipping containers of clothes to the west, earning the country foreign currency and bringing in more FDI than any other sectors yet. What will happen to these women? to the families who depend on them? To the factories? To the economy?
When the extremists make their demands and when I see hundreds and sometimes thousands more men sitting beside them in solidarity, I wonder… where they borne by men? Where do they get off in denying basic human rights to women? Were they brought up solely by women hating men? Are they really blind and dumb enough to think that they are going to drag half of a country’s population into hell and not go there themselves?
Yesterday, I was on the phone with one of my friends and her 63-year-old mother got on the phone to solemnly inform me that if these extremists ever take over the country, she’s going to run for the hills. She is a house-wife, she prays 5 times a day and ever since she came back from the Hajj, she has been covering up (just not in the black hijab thing). That conversation is when it struck me how desperate this situation is becoming. If this woman cannot feel safe in her own country, with people who are supposedly proposing to uphold religious laws that she already follows, what hope do the rest of us have? And I can’t stop thinking of the millions of women who march to the factories every morning with their tiffin carrier in hand, what will happen to them? to the families back home in the villages who depend on them?
And to be honest, I can’t wrap my head around the religion they are talking about. The Prophet (SAW) that I love, the Prophet (SAW) whose religion I follow, he himself was married to the most successful business woman of his time. Her business spread across several countries and he himself worked under her. He continued to show an equal amount of respect for all of his subsequent wives, whose opinions he cherished and whose counsel he sought. So where do these men get their interpretation of Islam? When the prophet himself showed respect to women and was the most vocal in ensuring them their rights, where do these men think they get the fatwas that take away women’s right, to work, to education, to an income of their own? Where?
No matter what goes on in the streets today or tomorrow or in the upcoming days, I cannot believe for a moment that in a country of 160 million people, these mere million or two of so-called religious people will ever reign. This half of the population and the families that depend on them is not going to take this lying down. People are already struggling with the high rates of inflations, increasing costs of living, energy costs are sky-rocketing, they simply cannot afford to have able hands sitting idle in the house or being forced to stay off the workforce. The mass population will simply starve, it’s as simple as that really, so they will fight this extremism for their own survival. In order to keep this economy running, to keep the GDP growing, the business community and the politicians can’t possibly sit idle on the side as well.
In a country that is bravely marching forward despite all of its draw back, these days will be but mere blips. I still trust in our people. I still trust in my country. And I still believe that no matter what, we the “Bengal Tigers” will see better days ahead.
- Kunin: When women do well, everyone does better (vtdigger.org)
- The UN Commission on the Status of Women unmasks equality’s enemies | Jill Filipovic (guardian.co.uk)
- Empowering women to improve food security – what works and why (guardian.co.uk)
- Women Farmers Can Reduce Hunger (ramyabdeljabbar.wordpress.com)
- Securing Women’s Right to Land Ownership (globalfoodforthought.typepad.com)
- A Message From A Muslim Feminist (numzical.wordpress.com)
- Losing my religion for equality…by Jimmy Carter (americansforcommonsenseblog.wordpress.com)
Posted on April 7, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged Bangladesh, economy, education, Food security, GDP, Hajj, inflation, Islam, People, religion, Royal Bengal Tigers, Women, women rights. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.