Working in a Man’s World

September 22, 2008

[STAR Magazine, September 12, 2008]

A working woman is an epitome of self-sufficiency and equality. She is expected to have overcome the socio-cultural dynamics of the gender battle and earned a place for herself in a brutally disparate system. But the work environment for women is anything but fair, from supervisors who hold back women’s advancement, to colleagues who make harassment a constant presence at work. In the absence of a code of conduct at organisations, and no legal support, it has an extremely negative impact on women’s performance and future in the workplace.

Hana Shams Ahmed

Fahima* used to work in a local NGO. Her supervisor regularly directed verbal sexual innuendos towards her. After work he would ask her to come to his office on the excuse of ‘additional work’. He would then tell her stories with sexual connotations. Ignoring his advances only made matters worse — he started getting aggressive. When she could not bear it any more, she told her husband what was going on. But her husband, instead of helping her, accused her of “leading him on” and asked her to quit her job. Facing this double blow, she came to Bangladesh National Women’s Lawyer’s Association (BNWLA) to file a legal complaint against her supervisor. Unfortunately, social and family pressure pushed her to change her mind — she not only withdrew her case after a few days — she eventually resigned from her job. In the end, both her workplace harasser and her husband satisfied their male egos at the cost of Fahima’s career.

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Sweatshop Tales

September 22, 2008

[STAR Magazine Special Feature, August 29, 2008]

Modern Kuwait represents all the glamour and opulence of an oil-rich country. Behind the glamour is the toil of the hundreds and thousands of migrant workers. Among them are 240,000 Bangladeshi workers many of whom are underpaid, work 7 days a week and live in appalling conditions defying all international labour laws. Too scared to complain to the authorities because their passports are held hostage by their employers, placed into shady work situations by a Bangladeshi manpower industry that is wildly unregulated and endemically corrupt, on July 28 the Pandora’s Box finally exploded.

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