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Protest and Charity Event for Victims of Violence against Religious Minorities

Secular Bangladesh Movement, UK will hold a protest and signature campaign against recent attacks on Hindus and systematic violence against religious minorities in Bangladesh. The protest and petitioning will be followed by a cultural event and fundraiser, which Secular Bangladesh Movement, UK will host in partnership with RadhaRaman Society.  Both events will be held on Sunday 13 November in London, and will be joined by prominent Bengali and Bangladeshi-British cultural activists, music artists and singers.  You are invited to join us and help us to raise awareness against persecution of religious minorities in Bangladesh.
Venue: The Ripple Centre, Ripple Road, BARKING IG11 7FN.
Show starts at: 6pm, ends at 8.30pm on Sunday 13th November.
Tickets will be available on door £10.
Light snacks and refreshments will be provided.
All funds raised will go directly to help victims of violence and rape against minority women who deserve justice.
Under the political unrest and increasing extremism in Bangladesh,  women and men of religious minority have been facing unending religious persecution, which is often launched by Islamists and Muslim hardliners.  About a week ago, on Sunday the 30th October, a horrific attack on Hindus was launched in which at least 15 temples and at least 12 pavilions holding Kali Puja were destroyed. In the afternoon of Sunday, several hundred Muslim hardliners carried out the attack after an announcement was made in front of Rail Mosque in Montola area by some local supporters of Jamaat and its radical student unit Islami Chhatra Shibir.  The brutal attack by some 3,000 radical Muslims destroyed at least 12 temples and 100 houses in Nasirnagar area leaving over 100 Hindus injured. Media reports suggest that the local leaders and activists of Jamaat-e-Islami played a key role behind the planned attacks on Hindu houses and temples at Madhabpur in Habiganj on Sunday as a result of the communal attacks in Nasirnagar area of Brahmanbaria over a fake blasphemous post on Facebook.

religious-persecution-following-minister-of-animal-well-being-called-hindus-name-malaun-4-nov-2016-source-ajanta-deb-roy-jpg-2

Religious persecution following the comments of Minister of animal well-being, who called Hindus as 'malaun'. Source Ajanta Deb Roy

Religious persecution following the comments of Minister of animal well-being, who called Hindus as ‘malaun’. Source: Ajanta Deb Roy

The failing of government to prevent systematic religious persecution is apparent. It has been reported by local media that instead of protecting the people who deserved security, a minister of Bangladesh called Hindus names, as Malaun, which means ‘cursed’. This alleged derogatory comment on Hindus  provoked further violence and followed further attacks on the minority Hindus by extremist Muslims. Although there is no published evidence on whether or not any minister has made such comment, the violence has increased and the many lives of minority people belonging to Hindu religion are at risk.
On Sunday evening cultural activists and Bangladeshi musicians of all religious backgrounds will stand together in one stage to say no to violence and persecution of religious minorities. The protest will be followed by a charity evening of Bengali Music, Poetry and Dance performance to support and raise funding for the victims of ongoing violence in Bangladesh. The event will be performed by prominent musicians, dance-performers, singers including poets and singers Imtiaz Ahmed, Gouri Chowdhury, Sanjoy Dey, Amith Dey, Farzhana Sifat, Laboni Barua, Anushua Paul, Manash Chowdury; musicians Ustad Yusuf Ali Khan and London DC; dancers Sharmishtha Pandit and Shreya Dey; musical groups; Robika, Soyttsen School of Perfoming Arts and Udichi.
secular-bangladesh-flyer-for-minority-rights

The entertainment will be seasoned with short presentations and speeches by community activists such as Mihir Sarkar, Ansar Ahmed Ullah and Sushanta Das Gupta.  Our aim is to support campaign and raising awareness against persecution of religious minorities in Bangladesh.

Please join us. Stand with the cause this Sunday.
For further information please contact:
Pushpita Gupta, Secular Bangladesh Movement, UK: secularbangladeshmovement@gmail.com, 07737 828922
TM Ahmed Kaysher, Radha Rahman Society:ahmed.kaysher@gmail.com
For news coverage on religious persecution in Bangladesh visit:
Jamaat men fuelled Madhabpur rampage : Dhaka Tribune 03 November, 2016
Video of destruction and attacks in Santal villages  by Muslim-hardliners http://youtu.be/0HFJzFXP7cQ
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A woman must not forget that she is an International Woman until Equality is achieved

Piya Mayenin profile photo

By Piya Mayenin

International Women’s day (IWD), Mothering Sunday, Mothers Day are celebrated on 6th and 8th March respectively which are the official dates and time to remember Women and their contributions.

However we do not remember women in the same way on those days. Whilst Mothering Sunday, Mothers day and even Valentine’s day we think of women in a warm, fond way in their roles as mothers, grandmothers, stepmothers, mother in laws, wives and lovers, IWD bears a very different history and significance which must never be forgotten. Political and Human rights issues are at the core of it and have been marked initially by struggles of working women, economic fairness, social justice, suffrage rights and leading to overall gender parity.

IWD has been celebrated now for over a hundred years with the first one in 8 March 1909 in New York and then 19th March 19 11 in Denmark, Germany , Austria and other European countries. It has since become the inspiration of all women and the pledge for parity (gender equality) in addition to celebrating of women’s political economic and cultural success. IWD has been given international official recognition during International Women’s Year in 1975, by the United Nations and was taken up by many governments who had not previously known of its existence.

Whilst the shape of women’s struggles is different depending which part of the globe they are in, their struggle at the end of the day is the same one. While developed countries battle with the objectification of women in media outlets, under-representation in positions of power and unequal pay rates, developing countries struggle with  ‘…dowry related violence; rape; acid throwing; domestic violence; illegal fatwa; sexual harassment; wage and social discrimination’ (Odhikaar, 2016). Not to mention forced marriages, Honor killings, in addition to Diasporas of the developing nations.

The writer presents a radio program on Betar Bangla radio based in the UK on Violence against Women and states that one of the top most reason for violence against women is perpetuated by attitudes of historical the male dominated society; an attitude that is imbibed also by the female population resulting in the parroting of words to give effect that stigmatises other females and fitting into the male thinking misogynistic atmosphere. There is an old adage, ‘Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t’ and this in the writer’s opinion describes why whilst the male misogynist is tolerable as one can fight it, the female misogynist is far more dangerous, damaging and difficult to fight.

An example of this is the Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who did everything that the worst male misogynist would want to do. Only one other single female soul was in her entire cabinet, namely, Baroness Young. Even in Prime Minster David’s Cameron’s cabinet there are far more women which should embarrass the Lady Thatcher. However it has been evident that it doesn’t. Her atrocious comments on single mothers have been attacked fiercely by single parent support groups and William Hague simply distanced himself from her comments. Many women applaud in loyalty to Donald Trump exist comments, who is not only a xenophobic but also a misogynist not to mention a fascist. In a magazine several years ago, the writer was stunned to read an article where a man was stating that he saw all women as cows. In his picture with the article, his loving devoted wife was holding him tight as if he were a cuddly toy pleased with her designation (that she was a cow).

A cat ought to behave like a cat, not a snake as this confuses the world. In May 2015, The Lib Dems were annihilated from 57 seats to only 8 while the Conservatives rose despite of their non social non liberal policies. The reason should be obvious, practice what you preach or be the cat who acts like a cat and not a snake. Likewise a woman should remember she not only a woman but an international woman. As she is representative of other women, she must go beyond of being a single personal with single aims and goals and see them though the eyes of women everywhere and in every situation. She must not support the misogynist.

A name comes to mind, the late Rosalind Elsie Franklin, an English chemist and X-ray crystallographer whose works on coal and viruses were appreciated in her lifetime, but her contributions to the discovery of DNA were largely recognized posthumously. In fact it was men who had taken the name for her works. James WatsonFrancis Crick and Maurice Wilkins shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962. Watson suggested that Franklin would have ideally been awarded a Nobel Prize in Chemistry, along with Wilkins, but the Nobel Committee does not make a posthumous nomination which is a great tragedy and injustice in the writer’s opinion.

In London one has to stroll about the city to see all the high financial and other positions held by men in suits whilst their secretaries are women. Waitresses are women. Which begs the question whose city is London? A man’s or a woman’s

On the international level it is welcome sight that for the first time ever two women are official candidates in the 2016 UN elections. Irina Bokova who is currently the UNESCO Director General and Vesna Pusic Deputy Speaker of the Croatian Parliament.

In the sub continental mindset misogynistic views are often perpetuated by the movies and literature that constantly depict and describe ‘good’ women as being virgin, loyal and obedient and sacrificing wife who endures all torture because she should resemble a ‘Sati Savitri’ naari as opposed to the ‘bad’ disobedient wife who is to be shunned. ‘Naari haath is used as a term to describe womanly tantrums.

Of course if one studied the Hindu scripture from Gita, the Vedas, Upanishads even the Puranas and epics like Mahabharata, would find that apart from Brahma ‘the God’ most of the other major deities in Hindu religion are female including Durga Kaali and Saraswaathi to name but a few. This simply goes to show there is no ceiling that women cannot go beyond. Yet misogynists continue to use Hindu scriptures to subjugate women!

Likewise, Islam was the first religion that recognized women as ‘being’ in her own right. A woman not to be shunned buried alive or tied up and kept for carnal needs of men. Islamic jurisprudence although complicated was applied to render justice and equality. The modern misogynists apply laws with a mixed misogynistic touch and interpretation that do not reflect the true intentions of the religion passed to Muslims by the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) which was simply to battle inequality. A prime example of this misogynistic application of Islam is Saudi Arabia where women virtually have no rights at all.

In Bangladesh women are made to endure abusive situations as the economic alternative and shunning by misogynistic society would be unbearable. Widows are still stripped of assets, given a rough deal through Islamic intestacy rules which are applied by misogynistic men, yet again. That is if they are not or are not also victims of violence from the deceased husband’s family and wider community.

Similarly in Afghanistan, perhaps one of the most illiterate and misogynistic states under the Taliban stopped women from accessing education through violent killings and forced them to wear the niqab and jilbab so nothing but the eyes are seen and even then one wrong move and they were shot.

Across the Bangladeshi Diaspora these misogynistic views continue. Without naming names, disturbing comments regarding single mothers can be heard on community TV. Wholly offensive and incorrect statements are frequently made. Surprisingly women present on a particular program did not rebut a statement that was equally puzzling and disappointing.

In the duration of my practice as a lawyer in the UK, I have dealt with many cases of domestic violence, separation, divorce and children matters. I have never seen a case where the separation or divorce was not absolutely necessary in the circumstances of the matter. The usual scenario even where there is no physical violence there is nonetheless an abusive nature of the husband with extreme unfairness on the woman and quite frequently on children alongside that. Moreover, no sensible person could claim that a widow has done that to herself (made herself a widow) and is thus of less value as a human being because her husband has died.

The vast majority of single mothers in Bangladesh and across the globe are mothers raise children (the children of the nation, of the globe) whilst their husband’s work abroad or in other parts of the country to earn a living.

In the Western world, single mothers are forced to take on the role of breadwinner, carer, housekeeper, cook, teacher and not to mention counselor! They are known to stretch themselves beyond limits and any limit what most couples would as parents, even if they do not quarrell over their respective burdens and responsibilities. A single mother does not even have that privilege.

A typical day starts often early in the morning with taking children to school (if they are of school age). On return from dropping the child or children if she hasn’t dashed off to work, it is the task to clean toilets, bathrooms, and kitchen and leaves preparation for cooking and then run off to work. When the day’s work is done they return (Many do part time shifts or part time work so they can pick up their children) The rest of the evening is again never ending cleaning, cooking, overlooking homework, washing the children, feeding, and teaching . The mother sleeps when everything is done and after the children are done she often catches up on work duties. The added onus of bearing the responsibility of a mother and the missing father engages a single mother around the clock and includes breadwinning, paying bills, housekeeping, Garden keeping, washing family clothes, ironing and constantly finds herself learning about how to best raise her children, provide stability and a loving and secure environment for the child’s development. These basic things are quite frequently overlooked by a two parent family as the social focus is on the single mother. On a national level state help to a single mother is minimal especially if not working. Many single mothers find ways of supporting their children at universities and do not expect help from Adult children merely because of the passion that their child should not lose out and should do well. A single mother usually sacrifices social activities and ‘fun’ for the wellbeing of their children and as they are forever catching up on their tasks at hand. For a civilized modern society not to note that is really a shame.

There are countless examples of extraordinary and great personalities who have been inspired and nurtured by single mother; Why don’t’ we start off with the current most important leader in the world? Barack Obama, 44th President of the US, Aged 54 who credits his single mother Ann with encouraging him and nurturing his ambitions:

‘I grew up without a father in my life. I had a heroic mom and wonderful grandparents who helped raise me and my sister, and it is because of them that I am able to stand here today.’ (Mail Online 10 Oct 2012)

What about Gymnast Louis Antoine Smith, the 26 year old British gymnast who received a bronze medal and a silver medal on the pommel horse at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2012 London Olympics. In 2015 he became the European champion on Pommel Horse. Louis credits all his success to the sacrifices made by his mum Elaine Petch from Peterborough.

I could go on and fill up pages but one could simply Google it to stumble on an extensive list as I have found.

The stigma surrounding single mothers is decreasing in the Western countries and it must do so in the sub continental originated communities too. If blame is to be apportioned then it must be to the right person which is usually the father, whether you want to blame them for being irresponsible, abusive, violent, drunk, gone abroad for work, or even having died on their widow!

Being a single mother is better any day than living in an abusive or even borderline abusive environment and in fact, in the UK, it becomes a duty for mothers to leave their abusive partners for the safeguarding of their children as is stipulated in the Children Act 1989.

Finally, stigma must be replaced with the acknowledgement of the true role of a working single mother who usually works 10 times harder as a parent than in a two parent family and are only a single parent as result from unfairness in life. She is usually a person fixed on a strong sense of principles and values and is not on drugs or dating different men as their own success and their children’s success demonstrate.

Whilst having a secure family surrounded with mother and father is everybody’s ideal, the reality is that half of women are probably single and that is even when they are married sometimes as the example of women bringing up children in Bangladesh and other places indicates! These children in fact go on to pull along their families to a better economic situation in later years.

Stigmatising single mothers for personal or political point scoring is reinforcing that it’s okay to victimize the poor. As a poor person who is also a single mother is more likely to be violated. If she is uneducated and unaware of her rights (and a single mother), she is more likely to be violated. She or her children are more likely to be trafficked.

The essence of International day is women’s right. The fact that women must not be sold. A woman is a person of her own, with a mind of her own and has a moral right to agency of her own mind. As single mothers are in a place to have agency of their own minds, they would do everything in their power to raise top -class children of the globe and society must help them as otherwise half the population is dead.

We need to broaden our horizons as shallow people will only raise shallow people – that is the main point here. That is the focus. If one wants to focus on single mothers then here are the two points.

  1. Society that failed women and young people have the highest debt to these single mothers as without them society would have nothing as they are the ones who support the future generation with their utmost being. So society instead of demonizing and shunning them let’s pay a tribute to them. Look at it theoretically, if single mothers abandon their children, would society be able to afford to look after them? The writer answers ‘no’ because the economy will just go bust in trying to achieve what these single mothers have achieved.
  2. A woman must be an International woman in order to represent all women, single mum   or otherwise.

 

Endnote: The Author is a solicitor of England & Wales, an active human rights campaigner and writer with a feminist edge. Piya ‘s work includes generating awareness amongst the community and challenging discrimination, bigotry and hypocrisy that affects Immigrants and all communities’ at large, creating barriers and causing alienation and segregation.


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‘Rising Silence’ – A crucial film on the Birangona

A Documentary Film on the Birangona by Komola Collective Needs Urgent Donation 

Rumana Hashem

Birangona means ‘Brave Woman of War’. This was the honourific granted to the hundreds of thousands of survivors of the campaign of rape carried out by the Pakistani Army and their Bengali collaborators in the war of liberation of Bangladesh in 1971. Their individual stories are largely hidden and forgotten by a society in which rape is considered to be a source of shame for the victims like other rape survivors in conflict situations.

RS Artwork (2)In the aftermath of the war these survivors were not only overlooked by the international community but also were silenced by their very own communities in independent Bangladesh. Having endured brutal rape, torture and enforced pregnancies and abortions many women of war were made to return to their villages, communities, families and husbands, but were never allowed to speak about the brutality that they had had to endure for the nation during the war of liberation.

There are thousands of Birangona living in extreme poverty, being rejected by local people for the religious ‘sin’ (zina) and shame of having been raped by Pakistani military. Their children and grandchildren, as eye-witnesses and as generations of rape-survivors, also experienced endless discrimination in a nation-state that was supposed to be secular and progressive. The Director of Komola Collective, Leesa Gazi, notes correctly: ‘with each day that passes, the Birangona of Bangladesh die out, and with them, their stories: stories that contributed to the making of a nation, and stories which we, as part of an international community striving to end sexual violence in conflict, cannot afford to ignore.’

Komola Collective, a London-based theatre and art group, has therefore taken a timely initiative to document the stories of Birangona. They are producing a film, called ‘Rising Silence’ , in partnership with Openvisor, Making Herstory and Jatrik, that aspires to document and preserve the lived experiences of survivors of rape and the narratives of great survivors of brutal abuse: the Women of War – The Birangona.

Other community women’s rights campaigners, including East London-based organisation such as Nari Diganta, provided unwavering support to the initiative and is trying to raise fund for the important film. A panel of experts and women rights campaigners and Nari Diganta members Pushpita Gupta and I have discussed the significance of the film.  Speakers agreed that this film is about the Birangona‘s will to survive and honouring their insurmountable courage. It is a way of bringing a crucial part of a nation’s history – that has been ignored for too long, made taboo and silenced – to the forefront. Above all, it is about documenting the voices of these women and the national reproducers of a nation-state that has 20,000 populations who rarely talk about Birangona.

If readers of this blog can see the significance of the potential film, please donate whatever you can afford. We deeply appreciate your support to make this film happen. Let’s make a history by making a historical film on rape survivors and the ‘women of war’ in a nation that is so proud of its liberation war.

To watch the ‘Rising Silence’ promo film on Birangona click on   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nlm_saJURKY

 


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It is time to be loud and clear

Celebration of International Women’s Day 2015 at Nari Diganta

By Nazratoon Nayem

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Last Sunday, on 8 March 2015, the women in Movement for Equal Rights, Social Justice and Secularism at Nari Diganta have celebrated International Women’s Day 2015 with a diverse group of women and men belonging to 14 different ethnicities and nationalities in Britain. At a packed room of some 150 audience, the members of Nari Diganta have greeted Bengali creative women and renowned BME women’s rights campaigners at the Brady Arts and Community Centre in Tower Hamlets, London. The event was explicitly focused on secular Bengali women who have dedicated their lives to creative work and BME women’s empowerment in Britain and elsewhere.

Sarah Begum takes Nari Diganta to 'Amazon Souls'. Courtesy: Rumana Hashem

Sarah Begum takes audience from Brady Arts Centre to ‘Amazon Souls’ through her slides. Courtesy: Rumana Hashem

The unusual event of progressive Bengali women kicked in with a greetings from the Secretary, Nasima Kajol, and an opening message by the Chairperson of Nari Diganta, Shamima Begum. It followed by a compliment of International Women’s Day from a secularist-sociologist and BME women’s rights activist, Dr Rumana Hashem. Rumana invites Sarah Begum, an award winning young film-maker and a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, to screen her documentary film about Amazonian life. Sarah took the audience to her film through a showreel and slides followed by a biographical speech, demonstrating the difference, passion and courage that a creative woman does posses in terms of freedom and women’s struggle for emancipation.

From right: Chandra Chakraborty,  Sarah Begum and Smrtiy Azad  spoke about their struggles as women in creative fields. Courtesy: Pijush Kuri

From right: Chandra Chakraborty, Sarah Begum and Smrity Azad spoke about their struggles as women in creative fields. Courtesy: Pijush Kuri

Sarah’s talk was followed by a creative women’s panel and a bilingual discussion by three creative women from three backgrounds including music, film and theater. The panel chaired by Nari Diganta’s legal adviser, Piara Mayenin, was attended by a proclaimed Bengali classical vocalist Chandra Chakraborty, the film-maker and explorer Sarah Begum, and Bengali performer, Smrity Azad. The creative panelists have made a point that Bengali creative women are not just performers who would perform to please men and the society. Rather, they are innovative women who posses transformative power, who made valuable contribution to their respective societies by overcoming hazardous barriers and by choosing creativity and performance as a way forward to emancipation and progress of women.

The discussion by the creative women was followed by a panel of prominent BME women’s rights campaigners and secularists. The panel formed by Gita Sahgal, the producer of War Crime File,and a writer and the Director of Centre for Secular Space, and Maryam Namzie, an Iranian Secularist and the Founder and Spokesperson of One Law for All and Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation, was chaired by Bangladeshi women’s rights campaigner and a core group member at Nari Diganta, Rumana Hashem.

From the left: Gita Sahgal, Maryam Namazie and Rumana Hashem discussed the need for moving forward with a secular agenda for women's emancipation and BME women's empowerment in Britain. Courtesy: Pijush Kuri

From the left: Gita Sahgal, Maryam Namazie and Rumana Hashem discussed the need for moving forward with a secular agenda for women’s emancipation and BME women’s empowerment in Britain. Courtesy: Pijush Kuri

The event ends with a staggering cultural programme of Bengali dance, music and poetry by women and young girls. Finally the singing sensation Farzana Sifat appeared with her solo music, followed by a choir of the members of Nari Diganta.

Vocalist Farzana Sifat sings for the women at Nari Diganta. Courtesy: Pijush Kuri

Vocalist Farzana Sifat sings for the women at Nari Diganta. Courtesy: Pijush Kuri

The cultural event, presented by Nasima Kajol and Munjerin Rashid ended with a powerful choir ‘We remain undefeated, we will remain undefeated.’

Sunday’s IWD event at Brady Arts Centre was as unusual as festive, and was filled with lively music and songs of Bengali women. The diverse audience of a wide range of ethnicities, dressed up in their national outfits, have joined from Iran, India, Libya, Norway, Morocco, Poland, Pakistan, Spain, Sweden, Scotland, USA, and of course, Bangladesh and England.

Part of the mixed audience at Brady Arts Centre IWD2015 at Nari Diganta. Courtesy: Golam Rabbani

Part of the mixed audience at Brady Arts Centre IWD2015 at Nari Diganta. Courtesy: Golam Rabbani

Despite the delayed start and some alterations to the programme, audience have expressed their full-solidarity to the organisers and the women at Nari Diganta who have shown passion and ability to create a space for a mixed and secular audience in Tower Hamlets. The jolly composer of the event, Rumana Hashem started the evening by calling upon the audience to engage with the ideas of creative Bengali women who appeared on national dresses and on posh-colourful saris in festive mood. Dr Hashem says, explaining the importance of sari for Bengali women: ‘those who are new to Brady Arts and Community Centre or who joined us for the first time at Nari Diganta may get a culture shock by seeing Muslim Bengali women on fancy sari. Believe me it is our everyday dress and this dress demonstrates our professionalism back home. You got to take it easy. Note that we are Bengali women at work.’ The room broke into laughter and a festive breeze had been felt throughout the evening.

Two daughters of members of Nari Diganta perform for their mothers and sisters. Courtesy: Pijush Kuri

Two daughters of members of Nari Diganta perform for their mothers and sisters. Courtesy: Pijush Kuri

Inspite of threats of radicalism by the unexpected intruders who sneaked into the venue in the midst of the programme, without permission of the organisers, the festive atmosphere was obvious at the event. Both the audience and speakers remained calm and bold throughout. The support of the wonderful audience became apparent especially in their efforts of networking and friendly comments. The speakers and presenters were articulate in their statements that Bengali women are progressive, secular and not blind to male-dominated social norms and customs.

Young girls of Nari Diganta danced for the creative Bengali women. Courtesy: Pijush Kuri

Young girls of Nari Diganta danced for the creative Bengali women. Courtesy: Pijush Kuri

Vocalist Chandra Chakraborty declared, in her final comment, ‘indeed, women are the superiors in terms of their ability’. She argued that it is wrong to assume that men are higher than women in relation to ability of creativity and ethics of care. Even though it is mostly men who hold political power, women are the ones who have the real ability to do things innovatively and passionately. We must recognise women’s real power, she said.

Gita Sahgal addresses the mixed audience. Courtesy: Pijush Kuri

Gita Sahgal addresses the mixed audience. Courtesy: Pijush Kuri

In her remark about Nari Diganta, Gita Sahgal said that she was delighted to hear the powerful statements of the creative women and the secular ideas that they upheld. She thanked the women at Nari Diganta for taking a secular agenda in the question of women’s rights.

Maryam Namazie calls upon the women at Nari Diganta to take a bold step against patriarchy and religious oppression. Courtesy: Pijush Kuri

Maryam Namazie calls upon the women at Nari Diganta to take a bold step against patriarchy and religious oppression. Courtesy: Pijush Kuri

Maryam Namazie, the Iranian-born women’s rights campaigner and secularist, has similarly expressed her thankfulness to the organisers for their courage to create a space for secular practices and for overcoming religious barriers in Bengali women’s lives.

She said, in her complimentary speech on IWD, ‘It has been great to join you all.  We need to keep moving forward with a secular agenda from here’.

The pledge to women’s emancipation and secularism were apparent throughout the event. In her welcome message, Nari Diganta’s chairperson Shamima Begum Hena said:

‘I hope that you will enjoy the event and will stay with us. We are celebrating International Women’s Day at a juncture when our homeland, Bangladesh is burning, as many other countries. We are facing division and confrontation between the progressive and extremist forces. In such a situation women’s insecurity became most obvious in all of these countries. We remain vigilant and  we try to establish a clear position in the question of women’s rights there and here. We want to celebrate International women’s day by recognising the good work that our Bengali creative women are doing in Britain, overcoming their situation every day. We want also to scrutinise BME women’s situation in Britain.’

Part of the colourful audience at  Brady Arts Centre. Courtesy: Golam Rabbani

Part of the colourful audience at Brady Arts Centre. Courtesy: Golam Rabbani

She added, ‘We need to be critical and be careful to any uncritical solidarity. We need to avoid generalisation of BME women’s rights issues with all women in Britain. We want to be loud and clear about the real situation within which we work, and we want to hear how our creative women may make their voices against bigotry and oppressions heard. In a world of uncertainty, we need to be loud and clear about our mission, vision and achievements. I am very pleased to see that so many of you have come to our event, despite it being a Sunday.’

Following Hena, Dr Hashem invites everybody to join Sarah Begum’s talk. She added:

Sarah Begum attempts to connect her work with women's emancipation.  Courtesy: Pijush Kuri

Sarah Begum attempts to connect her work with women’s emancipation. Courtesy: Pijush Kuri

‘Sarah’s film is a politically informed documentary and it bears a highly political message of women’s empowerment and freedom. May I ask everybody please focus on the “theme” of the film rather than the “scene”’. In explaining the significance of the theme and the design of the programme, Rumana Hashem explains also that the programme was designed differently because it bore a political message for women’s empowerment, equal rights and bigotry-free society. She said: ‘We are a young organisation and only four years old. But as you would know, sometimes a four-year child can be more clever, bold, innovative, scrutinising and imaginative than many adults. We believe that today’s event would demonstrate this creativity and boldness of a four years old child. The design of our event is unusual and the theme is important. We hope that you will like it and you will bear with us.’

Nasima Kajol addressing audience during cultural programme. Courtesy: Pijush Kuri

Nasima Kajol addressing audience during cultural programme. Courtesy: Pijush Kuri

In commenting about IWD2015 at Nari Diganta, Nasima Kajol, the Secretary of the organisation told that: ‘We have tried to do something different, something new and something especial. I do not claim that it was a fully successful event in terms of Western discipline and order. Still I am pleased that we have done it differently than many traditional events in Tower Hamlets. One does not gain success in one day. I think that we are doing well as a young organisation. I am proud of our ability to unite in a secular and progressive political stand at Nari Digatna.’

Nasima Kajol and Munjerin Rashid jointly greeted the pleasant audience. Courtesy: Pijush Kuri

Nasima Kajol and Munjerin Rashid jointly greeted the pleasant audience. Courtesy: Pijush Kuri

The evening was filled with film, dialogue, music and dance with Creative Bengali Women speaking out against oppression and bigotry. It was partially sponsored by the Tower Hamlets Council, PCO Claims, Amifro Associates, Chambers of MM Hussain, and Hillside Travel. The organisers have greeted the sponsors with bouquet of flowers for the much needed support that the funders have provided to Nari Diganta as faithful friends and well-wishers.

The choir at Nari Diganta on International Women's Day 2015. Courtesy: Pijush Kuri

The choir at Nari Diganta on International Women’s Day 2015. Courtesy: Pijush Kuri

The daughters of the women at Nari Diganta performed for their mothers and sisters. Courtesy: Pijush Kuri

The daughters of the women at Nari Diganta performed for their mothers and sisters. Courtesy: Pijush Kuri

The IWD2015 Raffle draw. Courtesy: Pijush Kuri

The IWD2015 Raffle draw. Courtesy: Pijush Kuri