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Women Participation in Local Government and Social
Integration in Rural Bangladesh

1. Introduction:

Human civilization from its dawn has propagated with the integrative role of women in the society. Women have always been obviously working as a vital agent of social cohesion and development in all societies. The role they naturally perform at home and in society are crucial. But women are the world’s largest vulnerable extended group. Even though they make up half of the adult population often contributing to society within and outside the family they are frequently excluded from the position of power. Of the world’s total poor people 70% are women. Women are mostly excluded from due in the third world. In Bangladesh women constitute half of the population and bulk of them live under poverty line. Irrespective of class, religion, caste, color and creed women are left in a state of isolation exposing the society to disruption and collapse. Lack of women participation in power and decision making is gravely liable for this state. Participation of women in the national as well as in local government is called for as an encounter.

Local Government bodies are a subsystem of national government. Women’s involvement and representation in these bodies are essential from all points of view. Many advantages are derived from the systems of local government such as recognition of local needs, less possibility of mistakes, check upon bureaucracy and direct contact with people. Local government generally provides services and facilities to the people of a special area. Women being half of the human resources should also be the contributor and beneficiaries of such services (Qadir 1984: 234). Equally important is that local government provides a training ground for political education that can help local politicians for future in national politics of the country. The Five Year Palns of Bangladsh also iterate policies for women development (Akhter and Chowdhury 2005).

Women members in the Union Parishad (UP), the focal point of local government in the rural areas of Bangladesh, are for the first time elected directly in the reserved seats. This has opened an avenue for women to participate in power and decision making process with their own agenda at the grassroots. Though this participation is in some cases to some extent barred, it provides for maintaining the mosaic of interests in a pluralistic society resulting in social integration. Building a cohesive community requires spirit and enthusiasm among the divisive forces affiliated to various segments and groups to provide for consolidated efforts and cooperation. Institutional structure has to be capable of cohering isolated groups and has to possess the correlative attributes of specialization and coordination.

Women participation in local government has far-reaching ramifications for social mobility acting on caste, occupation, sect, kinship and factionalism that are responsible for the process of segregation and exclusiveness. The patriarchal social system runs on the recognition of male superiority and female subordination and women are attached to low status and unequal sex relationship. The rural community in Bangladesh, therefore, is posed to the threat of disequilibria.

2. Objectives of the Study

This paper examines how women participation in local government yields social integration, the sine qua non of a harmonious society in the rural areas of Bangladesh. It strives to substantiate that in a complex rural society with inherent contradictions in role relationship social dismantling takes place as a manifestation of inter-group hostility, i.e. struggle for position and prominence amounting to social disorganization. Encountering this situation depends on the capacity of institutional structure. The specific objectives of the study are to see in terms of women participation: I) the...
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