Much too often the role of women in the developing world is dismissed or ignored in the Western media. On the ground you see a story that is stark contrast to the preconceived ideas people have about poor countries. It’s often women tilling the fields in Africa or Asia. It’s women working in factories, such as Bangladesh or Vietnam. It’s women weaving carpets in the Middle East or Asia. Jobs that provide the backbone of family finance or food are very often women. Unfortunately, being the bread winner hardly equates with social equality. To that end, it’s the women that are leading the “Rice Revolution” in Bangladesh.
Last month, about 20,000 garment workers defied a government ban on demonstrations to demand higher wages and protest skyrocketing food prices, especially on such staples as rice, which have doubled in price since last year. Some of the workers, mostly women, hurled rocks and bricks at police and vandalized factories in what the local media dubbed the start of the “Rice Revolution.”
Troops from the Bangladesh Rifles, a paramilitary force that normally patrols the country’s borders, now operate and guard the crowded government-subsidized rice shops. Dressed in fatigues, they send the stern message that the government wants to ensure stability.
Bangladesh is among at least 33 countries, many with shaky governments and destitute populations, that are at risk of serious political unrest if food prices keep rising, according to a recent World Bank study.