Bangladesh Mahila Parishad (Women's Council of Bangladesh) founded initially as the East Pakistan Mahila Parishad with the initiative of begum sufia kamal on 4 April 1970. This was formed through conversion of the base organisation Mahila Sangram Parishad (Women's Movement Council) created during the days of mass movement in East Pakistan in 1969. Bangladesh Mahila Parishad took active part in the war of liberation. One of its first efforts was the publication of the book To the Conscience of People from within the blockaded Dhaka city in 1971. The book contained photographs and vivid description that showed how Bengali women were tortured by the officers and soldiers of the Pakistan army and by their collaborators. The organisation was renamed Bangladesh Mahila Parishad after the liberation of the country in 1971. It works with the key principles of promotion of women's freedom and development and solidarity with the movement for secular, democratic, and progressive movements in the country.
Any Bangladeshi woman aged 16 and above, supporting the manifesto and constitution of the organisation, can be its member upon deposit of a subscription. The members are organised into committees at primary, thana and district levels, and then in National Conference and National Councils at the apex. In 1972, the leaders and activists of the organisation demanded that the government should amend the inheritance law, introduce direct election of women representatives in reserved seats of the Parliament and introduce free education for girls in junior high schools. In 1976-77, the Parishad organised a mass signature campaign against the dowry system. As a result of its persistent efforts, a law to ban dowry was finally passed by the government in 1980. The Parishad
organises weeks, workshops, and mass gatherings, and celebrates red-letter days. It also arranges training to upgrade the skills of its members as organisers of women's emancipation and freedom in a constantly changing environment and to develop self-confidence in them. It conducts vocational training programmes for destitute women to develop livelihood skills like sewing and handicraft making, and helps implement adult and children's education programmes, runs free clinics, and takes part in relief and rehabilitation work for people suffering from natural disasters.
A major area of activities of the Parishad is its local,
regional and national conferences that take place at intervals of 2-3
years to propagate the ideas, programmes and achievements of the organisation
and its members, and to steer movements for ensuring better role and place
of women in society. The Parishad has a significant role in organising
mass movement against polygamy, child-marriage, women trafficking and
prostitution. As torture on women emerged as an issue of increasing concern
in 1980s, the Parishad started a legal aid programme to assist the oppressed
women and to offer law training to all women in general. It submitted
for consideration of the government a set of recommendations for adoption
in the Parliament. One such recommendation is about formation of a Uniform
Family Code. In order to implement this and other legal reforms, the government
formed a Law Reforms Committee. Bangladesh Mahila Parishad is now a big
organisation with 21 primary committees in Dhaka city. It has about 75,000
registered members in 150 thanas of 60 districts of the country. Its activities
are managed by a 41-member central committee and a number of subcommittees
responsible for conducting programmes in different areas within the mandate
of the organisation.