Doctrine divides, Action unites

 

  May 2014

 

Life of a Village Girl in Bangladesh

Mahbuba Parvin Mony
 


Mukta, like many young girls in rural communities in
Bangladesh, has learned that the important decisions
of her life regarding education and marriage, for
nstance, have been made for her by her father—
a reflection of widespread and traditional patriarchal
practices in the country. The question is whether
her baby daughter and the next generation will face
the same life experiences.
(Photo by Mahbuba Parvin Mony)

Bangladesh is a predominantly Muslim country with some people practicing other faiths, such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity. About 80 percent of its people live in the country’s villages. All Muslims follow a patriarchal social system. In a Muslim family, the father is the chief of the family. After the father’s death, the elder son becomes the head of the family. Whoever is the chief of the family can do anything—whatever they want—very easily.

In this social system, village girls as well as boys feel stifled in their desire to have a higher education. The story of Mukta, a 20-year-old young woman who lives in a village in Mymensingh District, illustrates their frustration.

Mukta explains that a higher education offers her a path to fulfill her dream for a better life in the future. She wants to finish her studies and graduate, she says, so that she can work for the education of the village children.

Her dreams, however, were broken like those of other village girls when her father Motaleb one day made the decision that she would be married. Although she didn’t agree with her father’s decision, her father was indifferent to her feelings and didn’t permit her to speak.

He then began preparations for her marriage. The first time she met her prospective husband’s family they said that their son has a job in a company. Consequently, everyone, except Mukta, agreed with this marriage proposal. Because of the patriarchal system, however, she could do nothing, and finally, her marriage took place.

When she moved to her husband’s house, she discovered that her husband is a bicycle mechanic, not an employee of a company. Naturally, she was shocked, but she tried to accept this change in circumstances. She also learned that her new mother-in-law is the stepmother of her husband. Thus, everything she heard before her marriage was false.

She shared this news with her father and mother, but her father said that now this house is your home and you have some responsibility for this house. He told Mukta to accept this situation.

Shortly after these initial surprises, she faced a new trial; for after four months, a new chapter of her married life occurred: she was pregnant. Hearing this news, her mother-in-law sent Mukta to her mother’s house because she now could no longer do household chores. For six months, she stayed in her mother’s home and then gave birth to her baby—a girl. When her husband heard this news, he was not happy.

“I wanted a baby boy,” he said, “not a baby girl. I don’t want to see a baby girl. You shall never enter my house with this baby girl.”

Now this baby girl has passed eight months on this earth, but her father has never seen her.

In only four months of marital life, Mukta lost her dreams, her hopes and also her support. Her husband will not accept her and wants to divorce her.

Now Mukta has found a job, but it is not get a good job because of her lack of academic qualifications. She does not have a certificate of higher education. She wants to start her higher education studies again. She therefore needs support and help from others.

The lives of many village girls share Mukta’s story because they too suddenly find themselves married because of the decision of their father. It is a story taking place everywhere in Bangladesh today. It is the predicament of patriarchy.


* Mahbuba Parvin Mony took part in the School of Peace (SOP) that Interfaith Cooperation Forum (ICF) held in Sri Lanka in 2013 and 2014 as a participant from Bangladesh..

 

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