Bangladesh: First woman to supervise country's elections

28 Mar 2011

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For the first time in the history of Bangladesh, a woman has overseen municipal elections, ensuring their accordance with electoral laws and providing guidance to presiding officers.

Jesime Tuli, who holds more than three decades of experience in the country’s Election Commission, last year managed and executed the elections, upholding the rules of the Commission.

Her conduct was hailed as courageous, honest and dedicated by various international and domestic observer groups, national media and the Commission.

“I ask all women to think of themselves as officers and not women officers,” Tulli said. “If we keep that in mind many of the challenges we face today as women can be overcome.”

During the course of the elections day, Tuli visited more than 40 polling stations, including in some remote rural areas.

Of the numerous complaints she received, each was resolved to the satisfaction of the political parties, candidates and voters.

The Election Commission considered polls in Bangladesh’s southeast city of Chittagong a success with nearly 1.7 million votes cast.

Women and decision-making

With women’s unequal representation in decision-making positions, Tuli’s appointment as the first-ever female returning officer, her official title, had special significance in Bangladesh.

Women are underrepresented in the various tiers of government and are barely represented at all in elections management. Only six percent of elected Members of Parliament are women.

Out of 345 parliamentarians, 64 are women; 19 of them were directly elected and 45 were chosen by the ruling party under a quota system.

In recent municipal elections only four women were elected councilors from nearly 2,000 positions.

Three decades of breaking new ground

Since the beginning of her career as an Assistant Secretary at the Bangladesh Election Commission, in 1984, Tuli became the first female deputy election commissioner in Rajshahi, northern Bangladesh, as well as Director of the Electoral Training Institute.

Over the years, her knowledge of the Bangladeshi electoral system and laws, her experience in national and local elections, and her determination and leadership qualities have earned her the trust and confidence of the Commission, according to government officials.

“For my female colleagues I would just like to remind you that women are also capable and can achieve goals if they set their mind to it,” she said.

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Bangladesh: First woman to supervise country's elections