Improving work conditions for market traders in Bangladesh

Tuesday, November 27, 2018 - 09:00

At age 39, Lucky Begum is an inspiration for women in her farming district on the banks of the Bramaputra River, close to Rangpur, Bangladesh, South Asia. Her struggle to empower women and fight against women’s rights violations, especially in the defence of their labour rights means she is one of the faces of this year`s #16days of activism to end gender-based violence in the world of work.

And how did she become an example of female leadership in a poor and patriarchal country? In her early twenties, she consistently fought for reproductive rights, and against early marriage, polygamy, the dowry system, unpaid work, lack of access to resources and the labour market, violence against women and other legal and cultural aspects that mean women earn less and are considered inferior to men.

The journey was neither short nor easy. Not at all. It required considerable commitment and energy. Lucky became involved with ActionAid Bangladesh as a member of a Reflect Circle.[1]. She later engaged in a Strengthening Women Collective (SWC), as part of a multi-country initiative in Bangladesh, India and Nepal.

Since then, she has attended a range of capacity programmes, which enhanced her leadership and communication skills. She is now better able to lobby duty bearers and engage civil society stakeholders in solidarity.

An activist on different issues for more than ten years, Lucky used her best weapon -  words - to change lives of women in her community. For years, women's collectives had faced difficulties in selling their products on the market at  Fulchhari Upazila, in Gaibandha district. They needed their own space inside the market to promote and sell the products from their 56 cooperatives. Lucky led the lobbying process. The Federation consulted a range of stakeholders including market committees, local administrations, Union Parishads, community leaders, the Stop Violence against Women Network, and lobbied for a space in the market.

Lucky mobilized and organized over 1000 women with the goal of forming a large women's platform to influencing change.

Fulchhari Upazila Federation was therefore born in 2013, of which she is the president - it currently houses 56 women's groups from 4 local unions.

Women in the community were able to secure land from a private owner and built an outlet in the market in 2014. In addition, ActionAid Bangladesh has worked with the Federation to create links with different platforms, government offices and networks, while also empowering women to make decisions on their own and have control over their own income.

Lucky was awarded the Joyeeta 2014, an honor given by the Department of Women Affairs of the Gaibandha District for her contribution to social development. Joyeeta is a Bengali word, which means “winning women”.

[1] Reflect  circle is an innovative approach to adult learning and social change.