Reciprocity, Distancing, and Opportunistic Overtures: Women's Organisations Negotiating Legitimacy and Space in Bangladesh


  • Sohela Nazneen,

    1. Holds a PhD in Development Studies and an MA in Gender and Development from IDS. She is an Associate Professor at the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh and a Research Fellow for the South Asia Hub of the Pathways for Women's Empowerment RPC, based at BRAC Development Institute, BRAC University.
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  • Maheen Sultan

    1. Coordinator of the Pathways of Women's Empowerment RPC, South Asia Hub, which is part of the Development Studies Programme of BRAC University.
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By focusing on three different national level women's organisations in Bangladesh, this article looks at how the movements have used different strategies to become an effective voice for women's interests and empowerment at civil society and state levels. The importance of framing their issues in a non-contentious way, building alliances with like-minded groups and the strength of personal networks can be clearly seen. Reaching out to these diverse groups has meant the organisations at times making strategic choices, which allowed the groups to create space and legitimacy for their agenda. Relying on personal networks is shown to carry certain risks for sustainability and their ineffective engagement with political parties can reduce their influence, but ultimately their strategies for mobilising support and building constituencies has gained these organisations greater legitimacy and strength as advocates of women's issues.