- Arntsen.pdf (644k)
Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences
Master i International Social Welfare and Health Policy
The situation of women in different societies and cultures is a much debated and contested field. Scholars, politicians and others have throughout history upheld different beliefs about women, female agency and what position they should have in society. Much attention has been given to the issue of lacking female participation in the public sphere and in important arenas like politics, leadership and business. This project aims to contribute to the understanding of women in urban Bangladesh and views about gender equality in this context. I use the field of politics to explore discourses about female participation in the public sphere. This is a qualitative study exploring the discourses about gender equality, female public participation and the representations of women in the context of Dhaka, Bangladesh. The study builds on 17 semi-structured interviews with women from the capital of Bangladesh, Dhaka. The women are of different ages and from different socio-economic groups. The hypothesis is that one reason for gender inequality could be the discourses in the Bangladeshi society about women, gender roles and important values. I use Norman Fairclough's framework Critical Discourse Analysis to analyze the data material. CDA creates a meaningful framework for finding links between individuals’ meaning-making and use of discourses and the broader social practices. It also shows how we use discourses both to constitute existing beliefs, and how we use them to change social practices and structures. To gain an understanding of gender discourses that influence the Bangladeshi context, this project gives an introduction to relevant sides of the dominant religion, Islam, and the patriarchal culture that exists in the region. Gender inequality, both in general and in terms of political participation, is often explained in terms of religion or culture, but I also point out other possible explanations. However, to get deeper insight in this complex field it is necessary to listen to the women themselves. This project contributes to this insight and shows how urban Bangladeshi women in some areas feel suppressed, but on the other hand contribute to creating new discourses and understandings of what a woman is and can do. This study shows the women’s strategies to create change, and how they negotiate between and within discourses and ideologies to create change and gain more freedom.
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