Women in Power: The Example of Prime Ministers in Bangladesh, “A No-Casserole Zone”

~~By InsightAnalytical-GRL

As Inauguration Day draws closer, many of us are still feeling very angry and insulted. Even though most of us were not naive about politics before the 2008 primary season began, we still were in for a shock on  two fronts. First, the utter corruption of the Democratic Party, once our “safe haven,” became painfully clear. Second, and related to this, was how the party saw their hand-picked candidate introduce misogyny, as well as race, into the campaign and didn’t make any moves to stop it. Not that the leadership even wanted to…

So, many of us feel that Hillary Clinton, even if she weren’t the first choice of some, still was badly treated and was “robbed” of the nomination.  Later, Clinton decided to stay and play with the boys, which was very disappointing. On the Republican side, Sarah Palin was trashed just to be trashed and suddenly the only person on either ticket with long executive experience wasn’t “qualified” ; and she was undermined by factions in her party as well.

So here we are in the United States, with so many of us not feeling fine about the status of women these days.   Many of us who have been in this fight since the 60’s see things slipping away, while many women and girls, along with the media and many men, either don’t get it or if they do, are just willing to accept a disdainful, hollow man as President rather than a more experienced, tough, fighting woman.

(As an aside…seeing the Roland Burris debacle unfolding, you can almost understand why Hillary Clinton wanted out of the Senate. I wish she hadn’t decided to stay in the game as Secretary of State, but it’s clear that Harry Reid et al will stop at nothing when it comes to getting “their” people in…and Clinton is not “theirs.”)

Which brings us to another thing to ponder.  We’ve seen NOW and NARAL cave, and we’ve witnessed Nancy Pelosi in action.  We  may speculate that once women reach a certain level, they’re in a power game and they forget where they come from and play the game alongside the men in the same way.  And this includes undermining other women.  It may be that they’re jealous of the power they’ve gained, fearful of losing it to a rival,  or may it’s just what’s in their own characters.  Whatever is going on, it’s clear that just because a woman gains power, there’s no guarantee that they will be any different from men in power. The media may try to undercut women in power with hints that they are “emotional” or “weak” but anybody watching can see these women are playing the power game no-holds barred.

As an example, let’s take a look at recent events in Bangladesh. Bangladesh, one of the world’s poorest countries and one of the most politically corrupt, had an election on December 29, 2008.  For the last two years the country has been controlled by a caretaker government backed by the military which was installed  to try to bring stability to the country and stop political violence.

According to the BBC’s Q & A published before the election (Q & A: Bangladesh Election,December 17, 2008):

The two main parties competing for power are the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) of former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia and the Awami League of Sheikh Hasina – also a former prime minister…Between them the two women – bitter personal enemies – have alternated from government to opposition for most of the last two decades….both Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia have been detained during the last two years on corruption charges along with dozens of other top political and business leaders. Many fear that the character clash between the women – reflected among their respective sets of supporters – means that their mutual rivalry will overshadow the pressing problems the country faces.

Prime Ministers Zia (L) and Hasina (R)

Sheikh Hasina Wazed won a landslide victory on December 29th, marking her second election as Prime Minister. According to Reuters, “Security remained tight across Bangladesh and police were on alert for attacks by Islamist militants as the army-backed interim authorities prepared to hand over to civilian rule….Strikes, street violence and attacks by militants trying to turn Muslim-majority Bangladesh into an Islamic state based on sharia, Islamic law, have hampered past Bangladeshi governments.”

Today, January 7th, Hasini has been sworn in as Prime Minister (Hasina emerges with a change)

Her charter for change, which includes building of a “digital Bangladesh”, drew public attention, particularly of the young generation, which was finally reflected in the battle of ballots, observed political analysts. Her promise of change also reflected in the formation of the cabinet as she appointed young and fresh people.

The restraint in her speech attacks on her political rivals won her popularity in the run up to the election. Her call upon all political parties to shun politics of confrontation, and to develop a healthy political culture for building a prosperous country, also earned her public kudos.

We’ll see.  Hasini’s rival, Khaleda Zia ,who was the first woman prime minister elected in Bangladesh, initially vowed to work with Hasini even though she stood by her charges of voting fraud, but has already revived the bitter rivalry.

From The Daily Star (Bangladesh), January 7, 2009:

AL’s journey for ‘change’ started thru’ killing Says Khaleda

BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia yesterday came down heavily on new Awami League (AL)-led government, saying that it has started its journey towards “change” through killing, snatching and criminal activities across the country.


“You’re observing what is happening across the country. Does it mean change? Do people want it?” Khaleda made the remarks after visiting the bereaved family members of Nazrul Islam, a leader of Jatiyatabadi Swechchhasebak Dal, who was killed in the city’s Bijoynagar area on Monday.


Khaleda, who didn’t attend the oath taking ceremony of Sheikh Hasina and her cabinet, demanded immediate arrest of the culprits involved in the killing.

Both these women have been jailed and both have been either threatened with exile or actually exiled. In Zia’s case, corrupt relatives have fled the country (elder son, Tarique Rahman, still awaiting trial). Observers believe that there will never be political peace in Bangladesh as long as these two women are on the scene.

All this reminds me of Benazir Bhutto’s history in Pakistan, which probably shouldn’t be a surpise as Bangladesh was once part of Pakistan. Like  Bhutto,  Hansini comes from a political family; she is the daughter of Bangladesh’s first prime minister.  Zia is the widow of the assassinated Maj. Gen. Zia ur-Rahman (assassinated in a failed coup attempt in 1981); she has also been elected to the office of prime minister twice.  As with Bhutto, corruption is the name of the game when it comes to these political rivals.

So, while lots of people mourn the demise of Hillary Clinton’s bid for the Presidency, the reality is that while being a woman in power does make a statement, it’s not always the statement we dream of.  In the meantime, let’s see how Pelosi, Clinton, and other women in the Obama Universe operate. We already know what Pelosi is capable of.

And let’s see long Sheikh Hasini lasts…THIS time around…


Related Post: After “Aunt Benazir’s” Assassination, Fatima Bhutto Still Fighting to Reveal the Truth [Posted December 27, 2008]

Bangladesh’s Political History from InfoPlease

12 Responses

  1. Very timely post, IA, as Nancy Pelosi prepares to give us her idea of change in the House of Representatives.

    She would wipe out any chance of opposition from the other party. The house would strictly be under one party rule. And what a party that has turned out to be. The “Party of the people” has turned into the party of the few. Either you do as we say or you are out.

    To quote Lord Acton, English historian, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”.

    IMO Nancy Pelosi has let the power of the Speaker of the house go to her head. She wants to rule absolutely and if you don’t agree with her, keep your mouth shut.

    You are so right, IA, a woman in power does not always make the statement we dream of. Unfortunately, attaining power sometimes causes a small minded woman to think she is so much smarter and better than the ones she left behind, and she has no desire to see other women climb up the ladder.

    As you say, we should watch and see what other women in the Obama Administration have to say about the rights of women. Or better still, judge them not by what they say but by what they do.

  2. I believe that women can be inherently better leaders. The choice of which woman is quite important, though. The reason so may of us were enthralled by Hillary Clinton is that after her initial stutter steps in the campaign, she came out of the gate at full speed in favor of America and the middle class that supports her. When Sarah Palin came along, we instinctively knew that not only was she fighting for us, she was one of us. Everything about her was something regular Americans could relate to; we all know what it’s like to be a “Hockey Mom”, to struggle to support a growing family, to have several career changes by necessity, and to have to change course because of things happening to your spouse or children. We felt her struggle with a Down’s Syndrome child, with a pregnant teenage daughter, with a son in military service. These are all things every real American can fell and relate to. They are not things the elite in the world of politics can relate to. That is why Palin was such a threat to both parties. She’s a regular “Joe”, and she can’t be controlled to do what’s wrong by the temptation of money. She has a moral compass, and that is anathema to the “Powers that be”.

    Women, by nature, have more strength of spirit (IMO) while men have more strength of body. This gives women more inate leadership skills, and is the reason most women are the leaders of their family structures. A woman with a moral compass like Sarah Palin’s would be a formidable leader, affecting real change and progress for the American people. But that is not the goal; the advancement of the American elite and the enslavement of the working class is the now not-so-hidden agenda. Despite my personal disappointment in Hillary Clinton, I still find it difficult to believe that she would totally abandon Americans as our leader (although she would certainly be looking out for herself). This is where I believe the “maternal” or nurturing instinct kicks in. Of course, this instinct varies from woman to woman (think Nancy Pelosi or Michelle Obama in this country, or the women GRL cites above), but overall I do still firmly believe that there are more women with that noble spirit than those with it absent.

    So what’s the difference? From what I’ve seen this year it appears to be the same factor that affects men: money and power. Hillary Clinton showed she is not immune. Only time will test Sarah Palin.

  3. O/T but it looks like there’s a reason Bill Richardson cut and ran… a major Obama contributor is tied to the mess!


  4. No surprise at all. Richardson has been up to his neck with Obama, Teague, the whole lot of them.

  5. I think women learn to battle like men. If you’re in a room filled with men and you want to be heard, you better speak a little louder. It has been my experience that if you don’t agree with men, they speak a little louder. Pelosi has taken that approach. Still her loudness is deafening. So, all I can deduct from this is, the use of hearing aids will increase, as the noise gets a little louder.

  6. Axis Sally Pelosi could not stand up to W in any way shape or form. I remember calling her office and say Hey she is not his mother stop enabling him.
    But she will knife another woman in the back and put a puppet in office rather than do any thing for the best interest of the country.
    She has to be voted out of office. We need a creditable opponent in the next election to run against her. Cindy Sheenan while a good women was not creditable for office.



  7. I agree with you 100% helenk. The time to start a Nueter Nancy campaign is NOW. Find a credible woman candidate NOW and start getting ready to Neuter Nancy. Get her out of the house and back to her own house where she can send “strongly worded” letters to her little heart content.

    We need women in power who will empower women. Nancy cares about her power not the power and rights of women.

    While I believe strongly that the 51% Solution will help women, we need to find the right women. The kind of women that we thought Hillary Clinton was. And although I am disappointed that she got in line so quickly and completely, I still believe that she would be the right kind of woman to champion women’s rights and causes given the opportunity.

    Unfortunately she’s all aboard the Misogynist Obama Express and can no longer be counted upon. If she steps out of line, she will be out. And she will no longer have a Senate seat as a podium so her voice will be muted.

  8. Unfortunately, when there are strong women who speak for the voiceless–especially women of color–they tend to be mocked or dismissed as nut cases. That is what I have observed.

  9. ea,

    You mean like Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, Stephanie Tubbs Jones, and just about every female PUMA? I think we have all shared that observation this year!

    The question is, what will we do about it?

  10. Bangladesh probably singularly stand as the country where both the Prime Minister and the Opposition leader are women, both of whom overcame the attempt by the past caretaker government to oust them from politics and from the country. They have been accused and jailed but ultimately released under public pressure, competed and win in an election acclaimed by the local and international observers and participated by 87% of the voters.

    The new government also has 4 female ministers-foreign,Home, Agriculture & Labor. Except the one in Agri, all others are new. People raised questions about their efficiency. Time will prove their worthiness.

  11. Zia is the widow of a military leader killed in a coup. Her son has fled the country due to corruption charges.

    The current PM’s father was the first PM following the separation from Pakistan.

    Each come from the ruling elite and neither are prizes!

    The current PM Hasina geared her campaign to “youth”…perhaps very gullible youth…so we’ll have to see what happens, like you said, Bdoza. I know Zia is not going quietly!!

    This is like in-fighting between two families …let the country be damned!

  12. I am sure these two ladies will run Bangladesh another 20 years…..Political women are getting stronger day by day in bd..it is indeed a example to follow for the rest of the world..

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: