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Human rights work of NETZ Bangladesh recognized

She was once one of the poorest in Bangladesh and was not even allowed to go shopping at the nearby market without her husband's permission. Then Ronita Bala joined the local human rights group in her village, got involved and learnt about her rights. Today, she supports the literacy of the village population, stops child marriages and campaigns for the interests of poor and discriminated groups in society. She particularly supports women - because Bala knows how much they suffer from the paternalism and violence of their husbands in Bangladesh's male-dominated society.

Bala has now received the prestigious Bangladeshi "Begum-Rokeya Prize" for her commitment. This women's rights prize was awarded to five winners at a ceremony in Dhaka on 9 December 2023, 143 years after the birth of Bengali women's rights activist Begum Rokeya. The fact that Ronita Bala is one of them, alongside a university chancellor and a doctor, is very special. Bala comes from a village in the north-west of the country and has lived in poverty for much of her life. Bala describes the challenges that women face daily in her home country: "Women are held in low esteem in our society. For example, in many families, women are not allowed to go shopping for themselves; they have to ask their husbands first, even if they have their own money."

Strengthening the rights of women

The German development organization NETZ Bangladesh e.V., based in Wetzlar, has been supporting projects in Bangladesh since 1989. NETZ works closely with local organizations to overcome hunger and promote peace. The aim is to empower people living in extreme poverty, who are discriminated against and marginalized. Dr Max Stille, Director of NETZ, explained the significance of Bala's award: "Honoring Ronita Bala is a great recognition of the commitment of many women and men in the NETZ projects. It shows that the importance of women's rights is being recognized more and more."

Bala's work and that of NETZ have shown impressive results. Through the formation of human rights groups and the training of activists, countless child marriages have already been prevented, adult literacy programs introduced and medical care for pregnant women improved. In the current year alone, over 18,000 human rights defenders like Ronita Bala have been active. "Our men no longer dare to beat us. I can now make my own decisions, go out, go shopping," Bala proudly reports on the changes in her village. This shows how important the work of NETZ and its partners is and how sustainably it changes society.

Visit to Wetzlar in 2019 and continued solidarity

Sree Ronita Bala has already reported on her work on the ground in Bangladesh in Germany in 2019. At the invitation of NETZ, she attended a human rights conference in Hohensolms and spoke about the situation on the ground. A meeting with Wetzlar city councilor Norbert Kortlüke emphasized the importance of international cooperation for the empowerment of women. During her trip, Bala explained that there is still a long way to go to achieve equal rights. But she and her initiative alone have already achieved so much that the situation of women has improved significantly.

The successes of NETZ and its partner organizations in Bangladesh are only possible thanks to the generous support of donors. NETZ invites all interested parties to find out more about the projects and ways to support them. Every contribution counts and helps to improve the living conditions of women in Bangladesh and to strengthen civil society.

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