This report focuses primarily on commenting on the statement by Laurel Ulrich that, “Well behaved women seldom make history”. The optimal way to analyze this topic is to look upon the concept of sexism. Sexism is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as, “prejudice based primarily on sex; most importantly, discrimination against the female population”. This prevailent global issue is often addressed in what are known as women’s liberation movements calling on equal employment opportunities of women and to suppress acts of aggression and discrimination against the gender. However, these acts hold little to no success as backed by the following statement printed in a Decade-for-Women inspired journal published by the International Labour Organization (ILO), called Women At Work, in 1978 (Cohen, 2013):
Where women represent 50% of the global population and around 33% of the labor force, they receive only 10% of the world income and own around less than 1% of world property. They are also responsible for 66% of all working hours.
Expanding on the statement mentioned above, one aspect will be further elaborated, which is the ownership of assets by females. Where it can be said that women have indeed achieved their goal of equal employment opportunities as men – 66% of the global labor force is quote a large proportion – it can be argued that these women own less assets than they ought to. Women’s right to assets is often highlighted as a key factor for gender equity and empowerment. The word ‘assets’ refers to a whole range of outputs and resources both tangible and intangible. The lower state of women in many of the countries is linked to women’s relatively lower command over assets, which ultimately translates into a systematically lower access to community governance, education and health facilities along with a less than optimal participation rate in economic decision making (Elson 1991; Kelkar 2005). Ownership to resources is highly effective for the independence levels of women. The social policies of a lot of countries have shifted their emphasis from consumption and income to addressing, directly, the crucial role played by assets and capabilities in enhancing both household and individual well being along with the associated poverty reduction.
An example can be made of Bangladesh and the amount of asset inequality there. A significant reason behind Bangladesh’s uncanny progress in recent years has been the investment in education and health, especially for women. It is the young women of the country that are stitching garments worth approximately $20 billion in exports, women who own the renowned Grameen Bank, a Nobel-winning micro-lender, and women who have lead the country as prime ministers ever since 1991—longer than men could have managed, which makes Bangladesh unique in world history (The Economist 2013). However, if one were to look up the numbers of how land has been distributed gender-wise, men are seen to have progressed a lot more than the women, despite achievements by the local female population(The Economist 2013)..
It is not exactly known how unequal the distribution of land is, but it has been agreed that the share held by these women is significantly less than it should be. In 1993, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) put forth an estimate that women in Bangladesh owned only about 3.5% of the country’s agricultural land(The Economist 2013). After twenty years, this share has certainly shrunk even more, to perhaps as little as 2% (The Economist 2013).
Was anything being done against this issue however? The Awami League (AL) lead by Sheikh Hasina pushed for women’s rights when it held office in the government in the late 1990s and between 2007 and 2008 a government backed by the army drafted a legislation to give women equal access, control and use of land (The Economist 2013).. In the 2008 elections, the AL, stated in its manifesto, to rectify “discriminatory laws [that are] against the interest of women” (The Economist 2013).
However, these motions had clearly no effect, as the number of women who own land in the country continues to decline. Why this is so, shall be reflected upon in the conclusion.
This is an example of an individual that reflects upon how somebody overcame hurdles to be recognized as one of the most influential females in history, and even though this is different from asset management, this still serves as an example of how women leave a mark on history through uncanny efforts. Malala Yousufzai is a 16 year old girl who worked actively in her region, the Swat district, in the northwestern part of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. She has been active ever since the age of 11-12, where she worked towards women empowerment by promoting girls education in the her area, as it had been suppressed by the Taliban, on alleged religious grounds.
On early morning of Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012, Malala sat in her schoolbus only to have a gunman board the very same bus; he had no doubt whatsoever whom he was looking for. He asked for Malala by her name, then pointed his Colt 45 and triggered three shots. One bullet struck the left side of Malala's forehead, traveled the length of her face and ended up in her shoulder (Schifrin, 2013).
Despite her background, and her injuries, Malala still went on to become one of the most well known figureheads of the global community; having addressed the UN, releasing a book on her life, and being nominated for the Nobel peace prize all under the age of 16, is no small deal.
How can the Malala Yousufzai story and the lack of women empowerment in Bangladesh be related? First a review as to what has already been discussed is required. It has been recognized that lack of asset management is one of the major problems caused by the prevalence of sexism, and hence puts women behind men in history. Even though this problem is largely noticed in Bangladesh, and a lot has been done to solve it, yet little to no result is seen. A prevailing issue in Pakistan, the lack of female education was recognized, and almost the same effort was put in to solving the issue; however, some success has been seen in recent years. Then what is the real difference between the two scenarios? The answer is the presence of a figurehead. There is not a single name associated to lack of asset management for women, in not just Bangladesh, but also globally. Just like when we discuss female education, we talk about Malala; when we discuss the right to free market in the UK, we discuss Margaret Thatcher; when we talk about democracy in Burma, instantaneously we discuss Aung San Suu Kyi. These are women who have made their mark on history, just because they broke from the shackles of the sexist norms that have been set out in the global society. These norms are not cognitively present in human beings; however it has been hardwired in to everyone’s minds unconsciously. Hence proven, “Well behaved women seldom make history”.
- Cohen, Philip. "'Women Own 1% of World Property': A Feminist Myth That Won't Die." The Atlantic, 8 Mar. 2013: n. pag. Web. <http://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2013/03/women-own-1-of-world-property-a-feminist-myth-that-wont-die/273840/>.
- Kelkar, Govind. “Development Effectiveness through Gender Mainstreaming Gender Equality and Poverty Reduction in South Asia”. Economic and Political Weekly, 2005.
- The Economist. "Who Owns Bangladesh?" The Economist 20 Aug. 2013: n. pag. Web. <http://www.economist.com/blogs/banyan/2013/08/women-and-property-rights>.
- Schifrin, Nick. "The 72 Hours That Saved Malala: Doctors Reveal for the First Time How Close She Came to Death." Good Morning America 7 Oct. 201: n. pag. Web. <http://gma.yahoo.com/72-hours-saved-malala-doctors-reveal-first-time-101347540--abc-news-topstories.html>.