Claiming Our Ground

Published in The Daily Star, April 2009.


I remember the Dhaka streets two decades ago, when I first started roaming the city. Women on foot, by themselves were a rarity; nice girls had chaperones and didn’t traipse the streets by themselves. Coming from a rickshawless townlet, where one walked everywhere, I tried that out in Dhaka as well. I got stares bordering on the hostile, propositions from men who thought me a prostitute, and of course numerous comments.

And then the streets changed; the garments meye phenomenon occurred, and the bhodromohila barrier was overturned. The young girls banding together to avoid those same groping hands and invasive eyes on their way to and from their workplaces made us see and be seen; their slogged miles granted us visibility where almost none had existed.