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Politics still needs more ‘muscle power’ than women empowerment: Experts

Only 8 female mayoral candidates get nominations

Tuesday 08 December, 2015 12:00:00 am

Politics still needs more ‘muscle power’ than women empowerment: Experts

Dhaka, Dec 8 (UNB) – Despite regular campaign about political empowerment of women in Bangladesh, the number of female mayoral candidates for the upcoming municipal elections is very thin with experts attributing it to various socio-political factors.


Out of 20 registered political parties now in the municipal election race, only two of them nominated eight women -- seven by the ruling Awami League and only one by BNP -- to contest the mayoral posts in the December-30 polls.


Political parties, however, argue that they picked their candidates based on their popularity, competence and ability to win the polls. Women are less interested in mayoral posts, they point out.


Experts, however, said political parties ignored female mayoral candidates as women are not aggressive and politically influential with no cadres like their male counterparts.


According to the Election Commission statistics, though 2661 women filed their nominations to vie for 733 reserved councillor posts, only around 20 women did the same for mayoral posts in 234 municipalities.


Those got Awami League’s nomination for contesting the mayoral post include  Jakia Khatun in Panchagarh, Thamina AKhtar in Thakurgaon, Nargis Khatun in Chorghat of Rajshahi, Roksana Mortaja Lily in Gopalpur of Natore, Asanur Biswas in Belkuchi of Sirajganj and  Hasina Gazi in Tarabo of Narsingdi.


BNP nominated Shahnaj Akhter as its lone female mayoral candidate in Comilla’s Laksam municipality. Shanaj is wife Lakasm municipality unit BNP president Humayun Kabir Parvez who remained missing for nearly a year.


Jatiya Party nominated 93 mayoral aspirants while Workers Party nine and Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal 26. But, they did not choose a single female as mayoral hopeful in any municipality.


Contacted, Awami League organising secretary Khalid Mahmood Chowdhury said they selected their mayoral candidates considering their capability and popularity, not on the basis of gender or male and female.  “We didn’t discriminate anyone out of gender point of view. We’ve nominated our party men who have brighter chances to win.”


Sought comments, BNP acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said their party always wants to promote women, but their female leaders were not much interested in contesting the polls for mayoral posts this time due to the county’s current political situation. “Shanaz Akhtar expressed her desire to run the polls as a mayoral candidate and we nominated her.”


Contacted, Ain o Salish Kendra executive director Sultana Kamal said this is unfortunate that political parties, including Awami League, did not properly evaluate women while nominating their mayoral candidates though they talk tall about women empowerment.


“I don’t believe there has been a dearth of competent and qualified women across the country to get nominations from political parties. There’re many women who are qualified enough and courageous to vie for mayoral posts, but they’re ignored,” she observed.


Local government expert Dr Tofail Ahmed thinks political parties did not dare to nominate adequate number of women for the mayoral posts as they felt they will not be able to fight their male counterparts by flexing muscles and resorting to hooliganism and for some other social factors. “Women usually don’t flex muscles and indulge in terrorism. So, the political parties considered them ineligible.”


He said as there are reserve councillor posts for women, they have found it more comfortable to vie for as there will be no male rival against them.


Sharmeen Murshid, CEO of Brotee, which observes elections, said, “I think political parties preferred male mayoral contestants considering the current political atmosphere. They’ve a mindset that candidates should have the muscle power and cadres so that they can control their areas. So, women have been left out.”


She observed though there are many competent women candidates like Narayanganj city mayor Selina Hayat Ivy, they have little interest in fighting for mayoral posts without party backing since there is no congenial election atmosphere in the country.