In September 2019, a Bangladeshi couple challenged a long-standing wedding tradition. Baraat is a tradition in Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan which dates back to ancient times. Baraat begins the celebration of a wedding day with a procession led, typically, by the groom and his family. It is often full of singing, dancing, and laughter.
At this wedding, the bride led the procession. Khadiza Akter Khusi led the procession with seven microbuses and thirty motorcycles to Tariqul Islam, the grooms, residence. The wedding went viral online and made national headlines, sparking debate on social media. According to the BBC, this is thought to be the first time where the bride led the procession in centuries. Khadiza has been quoted as acknowledging their choice as uncommon, but necessary for other women in the future. And the couple’s message was clear: women can do whatever men can.
The World Economic Forum presents the Global Gender Gap Index to measure the progress of gender equality, with parameters such as politics, the economy, education, and heath used. In South Asia, the World Economic Forum ranked Bangladesh as the highest country for gender equality. Progress can be seen in the education of girls; in 2008, female participation in education was only 57%. By 2017, it had increased to 95.4%. Similarly, the workforce reflects greater equality. Currently, Bangladesh has the highest female workforce participation in the entire Asian region. Political and social issues, again, demonstrate progress. This year, Bangladesh’s high court ruled that women no longer have to declare whether they have previously had sex or not on the marriage registration (men never had to make this declaration).
There are many examples that demonstrate progress; despite this, there are still serious concerns in terms of gender equality in Bangladesh. Nusrat Jahan Rafi was murdered after filing a sexual harassment complaint. A UN report found two-thirds of women who marry experience domestic violence. Despite the high number of women in work, women are not represented in important positions and there remains disparity in gender-based earnings. This wedding was a beautiful and courageous moment in terms of gender equality.
Young men and women are increasingly demonstrating how young people’s voices and actions create movement and change. Young people and especially young women are often mocked and belittled for their interests in both the media and their own lives. Yet, young people are demonstrating their engagement with social and political issues. From Greta Thunberg, Malala Yousafzai, Emma Gonzalez and now Khadiza Akter Khusi: young women are brave and it’s exciting to watch young people make progress important social, political and environmental issues.