Ratna, a garment worker of Mohammadi Group, has been commuting to her workplace while battling sexual harassment in the streets at the same time, for the past five years. Jarina,a day labourer who lives in Kamalapur railway station, has also been subject to sexual and domestic violence.
Last Friday, these women enacted their stories of sexual harassment and inequalityin the same place where these incidents occurred. Peut-Porter, a London based collective design studio, and Para, a school of thought that focuses on enhancing spaces for communities in Bangladesh, jointly organised a theatrical parade in the streets of Dhaka titled Narishokti. Theycreated the opportunity for these women to present their narratives.
Peut-Porter and Paraa collaborated with a group of women living in Kamalapur railway station, garment workers of Dhaka supported by NDBUS, theatre group Prachyanat and third and final year design students from BGMEA-BUFT, to come up with ten stories that showcase theeveryday struggles of women both in the workplace and at home, to enact in public.
So as to engage the general public, this parade began in the crowded area of Narayanganj platform at theKamalapur railway station. The team then moved towards Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy and TSC, University of Dhaka, before reaching its last point inShahbag.
This parade acted as a space to speak up through dance, play and music for these performers. “Not only do I feel more confident after this, but I also believe that this will encourage other women who live in the station to talk about their rights,” says Ratna.“They’re not alone.”
A healthier workplace for women will also ensure economic benefits for the country. “I think Bangladesh has a great reputationwhen it comes to garments and the fashion industry,” says Alexa Pollmann, founder of Peut-Porter. “Bangladesh has everything ranging from resources to production at its threshold. Why aren’t more female workers encouraged to be more financially independent?”
By empowering women who are not in the spotlight, much like these garment workers and women living in the stations, the society can help the fashion industry to a great extent. The organisers also wanted tobuild adiverse group -- which is why students and workers both performed in the event.