Women in the workplace: Silver linings and the way forward

These women are our inspiration and their success stories give us hope in an otherwise patriarchal and male dominated world.

And hence, on a positive note, in celebration of International Women’s Day 2021 today, Star Lifestyle has taken the opportunity of speaking with many such women, hailing from various walks of life, to bring forward their journeys and achievements.

From female professionals working in large multinational companies and local organisations alike, to women who have bravely embraced entrepreneurship — and be it the field of athletics or technology or retail — we celebrate the hardship and subsequent contribution these women have made in society, not to forget that a few of them are frontliners as well in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

They spoke eloquently and candidly — discussing the hurdles and possible solutions in overcoming them, their thoughts on leadership, the role of corporate culture and work environment, and their advice for the future or younger generation of workers.

Even though Bangladesh has come a long way when we look around, we still see horrific cases of gender-based violence and harassment, disheartening instances of discrimination, etc. But the people we are featuring today on our Women’s-Day-special have refused to succumb to patriarchy and despite all the barriers they are successful in their respective fields — the silver linings amidst the grim scenario.

After all, it needs the contribution of all genders to make a family or society or economy work. So, let the silver linings be landmarks to find our way out!    

Therefore, we hope you flip through the pages and read on, as we observe International Women’s Day by celebrating the successes and contributions and pointing out the hurdles of women in the workplace.


A mother to the entire community

“I was six months pregnant when the pandemic first hit Bangladesh, but I knew I had to go out and help my community,” shares Sajia Akter, a 29-year-old mother of two. Since July 2019, Sajia has been working as a socio-economic and nutrition facilitator (SENF) for the Alor Pothey CDC Cluster under the Livelihoods Improvement of Urban Poor Communities (LIUPC) project of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

“I used to be petrified of the risks of going out, especially as a pregnant woman. Being in PPE all day under the sun was no easy feat,” recounts Sajia, whose team single-handedly distributed five soaps per household to 2,760 families in her community at Bauniabadh. One issue they faced during this operation was that people began to gather around the distribution point. “We couldn’t risk COVID-19 transmission, so we instead went door-to-door to every single house. We ensured that not one family was left out,” shares Sajia. They also delivered food baskets to 150 families. These essentials were life-changing for people during a time of increasing economic uncertainty, as many community members were being laid off.

With two young children at home, Sajia’s day usually begins at 4:30AM as she juggles taking care of the kids and working full-time as a SENF. “We are all slaves of habit. At one point, I got used to this routine, especially since I love the work that I do,” shares Sajia, with a big smile on her face. One aspect of her work she is most passionate about is helping pregnant women and young mothers. Currently, her team is responsible for counselling 97 young mothers. Sajia ensures food baskets containing eggs, oil and other essentials are delivered to them every month.

“We regularly monitor whether the food is going directly to the mother and child as intended,” she adds. Sajia also holds meetings with the women of the community to explain COVID-19 guidelines and nutrition information, especially for pregnant women and young mothers. “Since I am raising my children following the correct nutritional guidelines, I can be an example to other mothers in the community. If my words can help even one mother, I consider that a huge success,” mentions Sajia.

“I am grateful to LIUPC for allowing me to do such meaningful work. I hope to continue working relentlessly for the betterment of my community,” she adds.

Photo:Rashed Shumon