Women and Gender Studies, an academic discipline of faculty of social sciences, was established in 2012 at the Begum Rokeya University, Rangpur. The department emphasises the importance of women's experience regarding existing socio-economic and political context of North Bengal and beyond. It critically evaluates gender which refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviour, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women. It also challenges many traditional assumptions and theories about women that have excluded them from decision making in family and community. It includes the study of masculinities.
Women's Studies as a separate discipline appeared in the late 1970s. San Diego State College (now San Diego University) and SUNNY-Buffalo of the United States introduced it for the first time in the 1970s. Throughout the later 70s, many universities and colleges opened departments on the subject. Women's Studies started to be taught in Bangladesh around 1987 at Dhaka University.
During 1990s, the course had been included in different departments of different universities. Finally, the Department of Women's Studies was set up at Dhaka University on March 9, 2000. Five persons who played key roles in establishing it were Dr Mahmuda Islam, Dr Najma Chowdhry, Dr Nazmunnessa Mahtab, Dr Sadeka Halim and Dr Asaduzzaman. In 2006, it was renamed as Women and Gender Studies.
Undergraduate programme in Women and Gender Studies of Begum Rokeya University offers the following courses:
l Introduction to Women and Gender Studies
l Computer Skill Development
l Women's Movement from Bangladesh and Global Perspectives
l Political Thought
l International Relations
l Public Administration: Gender Perspectives
l Women in Bangla and World Literature
l English Skill Development
l Women, Society and Culture
l Feminist Theories and Writing
l Gender and History
l Gender, Poverty and Livelihood
l Gender and Environment
l Gender Based Violence
l Gender and Social Action
l Gender And Migration
l Gender and War
l Gender and Development
l Gender, Reproductive Health and Rights
l Statistics for Social Science
l Research Methodology
The objectives of these courses are:
F To promote research activities about women and gender
F To critically assess the traditional disciplines in the light of new data concerning women and gender
F To explore existing knowledge about women and gender in a variety of disciplines
F To provide an academic foundation for the students planning careers in women gender studies or related fields
The study of the discipline provides:
v An understanding of differences between gender, sexuality, race, culture, and social class
v Insight into the connections among different forms of oppression
v A foundation for analyzing inequalities and initiating change
v skills in finding and using information on contemporary social issues
The department also observes different programmes on special days including International Women's Day, Rokeya Day and so forth. Besides, it also arranges different workshops, training, seminars, resource person lectures, and gender fair. This department also put effort to publish various scholarly articles regarding different issues of gender.
After achieving degrees in Women and Gender Studies, one can work on the fields of social work, teaching, public health, reproductive health sector, community health, research, public administration, human services, human rights, communication consultancy on gender and development, film industry, media, law enforcement and many more.
Prof Md Humayun Kabir, Head of the Women and Gender Studies department, said, ''In a region like Rangpur, where structural poverty is severe in nature, and people mostly think of practical gender needs rather than the strategical ones to improve their livelihoods and survival, the Department of Women and Gender Studies is striving to bring in positive changes in the mind set of the people of the northern region preparing its students as future change makers of society. At present, the department has seven top rated faculty members and three batches with 180 students. The teachers hold sound command over research and theoretical knowledge in their own areas of interests that they apply into teaching our students with an interactive and engaged mind-setting.''
Dipa, a third-year student of the department, said, "I am very passionate to explore new things and take up challenges. After admission test, while choosing my subject I found Women and Gender Studies new, different and interesting than other subjects of social science. When I started to study the subject, it made me able to explore society, social relations and social structure from various perspectives. I dream of an equal and non-violent society and want to work as a policy maker in international NGOs."
Mahabub, another student of the department, said, "After passing HSC, I was planning to get admitted at one of the public universities and I got admitted to Begum Rokeya University. This department has given me the courage, support and ability of critical thinking needed to pursue my dream to be an academician and researcher. As a student of this department I have got a clear understanding of oppression on women and their disadvantaged position compared to men in this society, appropriate approach to address the problem, and the responsibility of men along with women to restructure the traditional system."
While talking about teaching methods, lecturer Roy said, "We try to explain theoretical knowledge in local context so that the students can evaluate the relations of human beings with nature and local society from the point of view of social science. The presentation skills of the students of this department are better than those of many other universities of South Asia."
Jointly contributed by Sajal Roy (MPhil, Bergen), Lecturer, and Md Mahabub Chowdhury and Marjina Masud, students of third year,
Department of Women and Gender Studies, Begum Rokeya University, Rangpur