Congratulations, Nishat Majumder
‘THAT’S one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind,’ Neil Armstrong famously said after becoming the first person to set foot upon the moon on July 21, 1969. After becoming the first Bangladeshi woman to scale the peak of the Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world at more than five miles high, Nishat Majumder, too, could very well have said ‘one small step for a woman, one giant leap for women in Bangladesh.’ According to a report front-paged in New Age on Sunday, Nishat ascended to Everest’s 8,850 metres (29,035 feet) high summit from the north side of the mountain in Nepal Saturday morning, with MA Mohit, the second Bangladeshi to have conquered the Everest after Musa Ibrahim, who achieved the feat on May 22, 2010, and the first Bangladeshi man to have done so from both the north and south sides. An accountant by profession and a mountaineer by passion, Nishat, it seems, was destined to scale the Everest; she was also the first Bangladeshi woman to have conquered three Himalayan peaks higher than 6,000 metres — the Mera Peak (6,653.78 metres) in 2007, the Singchuli Peak (6,501 metres) in 2008 and the Makalu Peak (8,493.3 metres) in 2009.
Incidentally, Nishat’s successful expedition was co-sponsored by the non-governmental organisation Plan International, which plans to launch its ‘Because I am a Girl’ campaign in Bangladesh in October, in support of women’s empowerment; she has indeed given the campaign a jumpstart. Most importantly, her mountaineering feat bears testimony to the fact that, given proper scope and patronage, women in Bangladesh can overcome any challenge, and that they are ready as ever to take control of their destiny. Suffice it to say, while successive governments since independence have talked the talk about women’s empowerment — social, political and economic, they have hardly walked the walk. The ruling elites seem to have pinned their discourse on women’s empowerment on the fact that Bangladesh has had women prime ministers for most of the past two decades, apparently trying to paper over their persistent failure to ensure even the physical safety and security of women. The least talked about the true empowerment of women the better.
The prime minister and the leader of the opposition, both women, have predictably issued clichéd congratulatory messages on Nishat’s monumental success. According to another report also front-paged in New Age on Sunday, the prime minister said that the ‘courageous venture’ proved ‘Bengali courage’ and would ‘inspire the new generation’ while the opposition leader said Nishat had improved Bangladesh’s image through her adventure. It would have been more befitting perhaps if the two leaders had articulated their resolve to work towards removing in-built barriers in the state and society to women’s progress and ensuring enabling environment for Bangladeshi women to make greater strides in every sphere of life — social, cultural, political and economic.
Be that as it may, Nishat has proved that no mountain is tall enough not to be scaled and that no challenge is stiff enough not to be overcome. Above all, her feat has given this success-starved nation something to cheer about and to be proud of.
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