Event Summary: Women's Empowerment, Gender Justice, and Religion in Bangladesh

Author: Nathaniel Adams

May 16, 2015

The second session of the Speakers' Forum on Religion and Development in Bangladesh took place in Dhaka, Bangladesh on May 16, 2015. The topic, “Women’s Empowerment, Gender Justice, and Religion,” was focused on the ways in which religious traditions shape legal rights and social obligations for women and men in Bangladesh; the summary provides highlights of the meeting. The aim was to explore secular and Islamic discourse on women’s rights in order to understand how, what emerge as often divergent viewpoints, affect everyday realities of women and development prospects and approaches. The event highlighted efforts to advance scholarship on and foster greater public dialogue around women’s place in religious traditions and to explore what Bangladesh can learn from regional experiences in Asia and broader international experiences.

The Speakers’ Forum series is a joint initiative of the World Faiths Development Dialogue, Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, and BRAC University’s Department of Economics and Social Sciences. The Forum involves a series of day-long events organized around critical social issues and development challenges. Topics also highlight areas where religious leaders or institutions play significant roles or where a fuller understanding of religious dimensions can enrich development work and policy.

The forums offer a non-politicized space for constructive dialogue on the real and potential contributions of faith-inspired actors to critical development topics, with a view towards deepening the national conversation on religion more broadly. They draw on experience and expertise of scholars and development practitioners from local, regional, and international contexts, thus providing points of comparison and opportunities for mutual learning. They will cultivate a global network of dialogue and collaboration on shared challenges. Easing tensions around religious roles in public affairs and exploring ways forward on divisive and deadlocked social issues are core objectives. The first forum in November 2014 addressed the theoretical dimensions and practical realities of constitutional provisions for, respectively, secular and religious orientation of the state.

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