Bangladesh: Promoting Women in Justice

On March 8, 2014, USAID's Justice for All (JFA) Program, in collaboration with Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST), organized a panel discussion on “Women’s Participation in the Justice Sector: Challenges and Expectation” at Dhaka University. The event offered a unique forum for women law students to interact with experienced women legal professionals and learn about the opportunities and challenges that women face in the justice sector. The panel included Judge Nurun Nahar Osmani, Barrister Sheela Rahman, Advocate Amatul Karim, Advocate Susmita Chakma, and Advocate Naznin Nahar, and was moderated by JFA Deputy Chief of Party Sharmeen Farouk.

Each panelist shared her experiences as a woman working in the justice sector. Judge Osmani, the President of the Bangladesh Women Judges Association, said that her mother inspired her to become a judge, and she worked very hard to achieve success in her career. She also noted that service in the judiciary is a very honorable profession for women. Several panelists encouraged the women students to think of themselves as lawyers first. Advocate Naznin Nahar said that in her opinion, there is no difference between men and women in the legal profession. She said, "Every lawyer must be confident and should acquire the trust and faith of his/her colleagues as well as clients." Advocate Amatul Karim, Deputy Attorney General for Bangladesh, concurred that she always thought of herself as a lawyer rather than a woman. Advocate Susmita Chakma discussed the adversity faced by women lawyers, including inappropriate language and behavior in the court room by male colleagues. She encouraged the students to face these challenges and discrimination with courage. Advocate Nusrat Jahan added that there are many obstacles for women in the legal profession. In her opinion, some senior lawyers do not hire female junior lawyers because they think women are not as capable as men. She also explained that she had been the victim of sexual harassment.

At the end of the discussion, students had an opportunity to ask questions of the distinguished panelists. One student asked Barrister Sheela Rahman about the best way to approach a potential mentor. Barrister Sheela Rahman encouraged the students to select an area of legal specialization and seek mentors early in their career. Another student asked Judge Osmani about postings in the judicial service. The JFA program and BLAST will continue to host professional development panels for women legal professionals as part of its "Women in Justice" grant initiative.

NCSC has been working to promote gender empowerment in the justice sector in Bangladesh through USAID’s Justice for All Program since October 2012. For more information on USAID’s Justice for All Program, please visit www.justice-bd.org.