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Reading about Bangladeshi culture and their way of life definitively prepares one for the experiences awaiting, but in no way can it train a person to develop patience when annoyances occur and it doesn’t get rid of old perceptions and expectations about professional and personal life. Not that I have any intention of tossing out my habits and previous expectations, but I am eager to develop another mindset to be able to fully understand the issues at stake and also to stop reaching for my Bosno-American solutions which only seem to complicate things.
When it comes to my professional life here, I am scrambling to find a medium as many of my coworkers are eager to know all details about my private life. Being raise in United States – the country of individualism – which is something I strongly detested, I still feel uneasy when questions are posed about who I go out with, male or female, when did I come back home, and what did I do. Maybe it bothers me because in my mind I already decided that I will be judged even before they have a chance to say anything, but then that feeling seems justified
by all the advice and comments that I have received about appropriate behavior for a woman. So after searching for my patience and for ways to deal with such questions, I discovered that it helps to be just as nosy and hit them back with same questions, which then diminishes the interrogation.
On a happier note, I feel that my coworkers treat me with respect and value my input even though all of the management positions are held by male employees. Aside from the interruptions when speaking and the times I have to argue my point repeatedly, I feel no difference in the treatment because I am a woman. I wish that I could say the same about how the local women are treated here and so I feel that I am given this treatment just because I am educated and from
a country where women’s rights are protected. It is embarrassing to experience this firsthand, meaning to be treated differently than a fellow female employee or a female family member right before my eyes, and there isn’t anything that I could do or say about it without offending the people involved.
I also feel limited about being able to go places and especially constrained by the time as it is inappropriate and unsafe for a woman to be out of the house at night, but women here face additional restraints because of so many cultural expectations placed on them. It is true that women’s rights have been getting more attention from government and development organizations, and there are signs of women breaking the cultural constraints. This can be seen in a more relaxed way women dress, increasing employment participation in parliament, and by an increase in the rate of enrollment in primary and secondary education for girls. With that said, there is more to be done, and especially much more for the poor women as they are in the worst position in the
So here is this cultural difference for which I am learning to find my patience and hope that sometime in near future the situation will improve, and women will have more rights and better access to opportunities. I have heard people in Bangladesh argue that women need more opportunities and some feel that there is a constraint due to religion and the way many people interpret it. I would say that I agree to a point because on numerous occasions on a visit to the mosque I was escorted to the back entrance, not for foreigners and non-religious persons, but for women. Definitively there are other reasons beside religion why the adult female literacy is only 30.8 percent compared to 49.9 percent for adult males, and why poor women are at higher risk for illness due to malnutrition, numerous pregnancies and hard work. Is it culture, religion, or something else? I don’t know; I am puzzled!!!
Posted By Danita Topcagic
Posted Jun 29th, 2008