Women representatives unable to work

Let alone pursuing development activities for those who have voted her to power, Nasrin Sultana Runa, commissioner of Comilla Municipality, is unable to discharge obligations to her constituents by even visiting them and listening to their civic complaints.

Runa is a commissioner from wards 10, 11 and 12 (reserved for women) in Comilla Municipality and she complains of discrimination by her male colleagues. Despite being elected from three wards comprising a big area, she hardly gets any support or allocation from the municipality for the voters of those wards.
“Usually we are at the receiving end of negligence and mistreatment,” complained Runa while talking to New Age last week. “I am getting the same allocation for the development of my three wards that the male commissioners get for only one,” said Runa while describing how the women commissioners are facing difficulties in discharging duties in the area.

“As our area of work is much larger than that of the male commissioners, we need more allocation, which is invariably refused,” echoed Kohinoor Begum Panna, a commissioner representing wards 4, 5 and 6 (reserved for women) of Natore Municipality. Runa said that during the last Eid-ul-Azha, she got 30 VGF cards for her three wards, while a male colleague got 40 for his one ward. “How could I meet the demand of my voters and the people of the area?”

The story of discrimination against women commissioners is the same as in Natore. Before the polls, Panna said, she promised welfare benefits to the voters and the people of the area. “Now I can’t go and meet them, fearing their criticism, as I am unable to do anything for them.” Like Runa and Panna, other women representatives (from reserved seats) in the local bodies are facing the same difficulties and getting frustrated for not being able discharge their duties.

As women, we usually face some sort of problem in society, and things become really tougher for us when we can’t fulfil the pledges we made to the people while asking for votes,” said Runa. She said women commissioners now face problems both in their office and in the public. “Inside the office, we face discrimination and non-cooperation by our male colleagues and outside we face criticism by the people. This has made many of us inactive.”

They said that many women commissioners are still fighting for rooms or sitting arrangements in their municipalities. Many others could not attend village salish (arbitration) in the face of protest by their male colleagues. The women commissioners have sought intervention by higher authorities to address the crisis and to establish equal rights as elected local representatives.
The New Age, June 18, 2004

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