Shahnaj Parveen


This study aims to determine the social status of rural women and their level of gender awareness (GA) in three villages within the Mymensingh district of Bangladesh. Data were collected from 156 respondents through group discussions and personal interviews from December 2002 to April 2003. Women’s social status and GA was determined following the Likert scale method. The study reveals that personal income and physical beauty of rural women are the most important factors determining a higher social status while women with distressed conditions including mental and physical disabilities were found to have a lower social status. Among ten pre-selected attributes relating to gender, the respondents were able to recognize gender discrimination with respect to domestic violence, community participation, inheritance of property rights, timing of marriage and divorce rights. However, they failed to recognize disparity regarding payment of dowry during marriage, undervaluation of own work and sex bias in terms of age, education, food and health. A rank correlation analysis points out a significant positive relationship between women’s GA and their formal education, exposure to the media, spatial mobility and access to institutional resources, while length of marriage and spousal alienation were negatively correlated. These findings led to the conclusion that development agencies should make pragmatic efforts to increase rural women’s gender awareness in respect of increasing their literacy levels, providing useful information through different media, facilitating access to productive resources and establishing women’s organizations in the locality. These efforts would help to achieve a higher level of gender awareness among women in rural Bangladesh.

Note on the Author

Shahnaj Parveen, PhD, has been teaching in the Department of Agricultural Extension Education of Bangladesh Agricultural University, Mymensingh, Bangladesh since 1996. She completed her doctoral study from the Justus-Liebig-University Giessen, Germany in 2005. Her area of research interest is on gender in agriculture and rural development.