According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2018, Bangladesh has made great strides when it comes to women’s empowerment. The country currently ranks 48th — far ahead of neighboring South Asian countries — but the indices do not reflect the overall condition of women in Bangladesh, who often face obstacles both inside and outside the home.
The country’s conservative, patriarchal society still deters and discourages women from stepping out of the house on their own, whether for work or just for a short walk. Despite such challenges, a group of Bangladeshi women, co-founded by doctors Sakia Haque and Manashi Saha, vowed to travel (by motorbike, no less!) to each of the country’s 64 districts in order to educate young women about their own potential.
The scope of their tour was always broader than just visiting places. Apart from learning about the natural attractions, culture and food of each new district, they visited many girls’ schools, offering free medical advice on reproductive health and puberty, and talking about ways in which women can empower themselves. In Bangladesh, discussing “female” issues like menstruation and reproductive health is considered taboo — Bangladesh is yet to effectively roll out sex education at the high school level — and as a result, many girls endure different types of physical problems that could otherwise be prevented, or at least better managed.
Haque’s novel idea was supported by a number of her friends, who dubbed the initiative “Bangladesh through the eyes of women”. Although Haque and Saha have traveled to all 64 districts individually, they will complete visiting them as a team in the coming months (they already have 57 districts under their belt). By talking about various topics and sharing tales of their travels, the group tries to awaken the schoolgirls’ spirit of adventure in the hope that they might be able to break the shackles of conservative society.
The group has also created a website and Facebook page, Travelettes Of Bangladesh. So far, 28 thousand people have joined the page and the group has arranged a number of tours with members. Via Facebook Messenger, Global Voices talked with Haque about her group’s travels and its mission to empower young women in Bangladesh.
Sakia Haque wants to travel far and women’s empowerment is not the only thing she hopes to explore along the journey — she also wants to devote herself to human welfare. You can check out the album of her travels across Bangladesh.
This article was initially published at globalvoices