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Year: 2009 Type: Report Language: English

The objective of this paper presented to the 'Pathways: What are we Learning?' Conference held in Cairo from 20-24 January 2009, is to analyse the discourses on women’s empowerment among the three main political parties in Bangladesh: the Awami League (AL); Bangladesh Nationalist party (BNP), and Jamaat-E-Islami. The analysis of these documents focuses on the following areas: a) what issues and ideas have the political parties incorporated from the feminist and development discourses on women’s empowerment; b) where do the dissonances lie in this incorporation process; and c) where do the centrist and religion based parties vary on their discourse on women’s empowerment. The paper argues that of these parties have drawn from the national and international development discourse on women’s empowerment and on certain issues ideas propagated by the Bangladeshi feminists. However, compared to the two centrist parties AL and BNP, the Islamist party, Jamaat adopted a more comprehensive view of women’s empowerment. The centrist parties have either de-emphasized or justified women’s empowerment related policies based on efficiency related grounds. Based on the analysis of party discourse on female supporter recruitment and mobilisation, the paper argues that this divergence is partly a result of the need for Jamaat to ideologically convince supporters that they have been able to deal with the challenge raised by feminist movement successfully. Moreover, the centrist parties are able to disregard this pressure and are perhaps reluctant to antagonize the potential voters by appearing too un-Islamic.