Gender and the empowerment of women have long had a prominent place in development discourse in Bangladesh. The country has pioneered strategies that seek to economically empower women through microfinance and increase girls enrollment through innovative school stipend programs. Despite notable successes, deeply rooted patriarchal social norms prevail in Bangladesh, bound up in complex ways with religious and cultural traditions. Women’s empowerment efforts have at times been strongly opposed by conservative groups, often citing religious scripture to defend patriarchal practices. This paper focuses on the roles of religious ideas, practices, and actors in forming social attitudes and norms around gender.
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