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Women and power: mediating community justice in rural Bangladesh

Research reports

Written by Craig Valters

​In rural Bangladesh, women have historically been excluded from participating in traditional justice, rarely even attending even their own hearings. The state, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and women leaders have been working towards changing this situation for the better.

This study in one of the poorest areas of the country suggests women’s participation as leaders in community dispute resolution has increased, although the authors remain doubtful as to whether they can in­fluence what kind of justice is delivered. In-depth interviews with women leaders at the community level in Rangpur suggest their ability to participate depends on their family dynamics, political connections, house-hold economy, education and NGO networks. The personal stories of women show how these interrelate and interact with legal, institutional and social changes in Bangladesh.

The study concludes that progress on this front requires sustained engagement – from the state, NGOs and women leaders. International donors can continue to support progressive social change through providing careful, context-specific funding to grassroots organisations.

This case study is an output from the Women’s voice and leadership in decision-making project.

Craig Valters and Ferdous Jahan