Pregnancy in the Netherlands or in Bangladesh:
the differences are big
In the Netherlands, the announcement of a pregnancy or birth is often a reason to float on a cloud of happiness for months. In Bangladesh the situation is different, socially and economically. Women often do not even dare to share that they are pregnant. Together with the Dutch Talita Kalloe and our Bengali production partner Taslima Miji, we explore the theme in both countries during the week of Mother’s Day.
Talita Kalloe, founder of the online magazine Soul Stores, is overjoyed to find out she is expecting her second daughter, Ava Rosa: “Everyone was thrilled and excited to have Ava arrive. She wasn’t necessarily planned, but we knew that if I got pregnant a second time, she would be very welcome.”
She gave birth at home under supervision and together with her husband Tim, who received the baby in a birthing bath. Talita prepared herself well for childbirth; she immersed herself in Ayurveda, coped well with the contractions thanks to a hypno birthing course, and froze a number of meals so that she had enough food for the weeks after the birth. Talita also had a lot of support from the midwife, the maternity nurses and a doula: “I think they have been an indispensable part in how calm, prepared and loving my delivery and maternity period went.”
“I think they have been an indispensable part in how calm, prepared and loving my delivery and maternity period went.”
More than 7,000 kilometers away, in Dhaka Bangladesh, Sultana also gave birth. It is her first child. Her pregnancy was turbulent and with minimal support. Her husband, unlike Talita’s husband, didn’t really care about her. For fear of being fired, Sultana hid her pregnancy from the outside world. Only after five months did Sultana gather the courage to inform her employer, Taslima Miji (founder of Leatherina) about her pregnancy.
The fear of Sultana is not unusual, in Bangladesh it often happens that pregnant women are fired. Fortunately, her fear turned out to be unnecessary. Taslima, who is a single mother herself, was overjoyed for her. She even organized a baby shower for Sultana and decided to arrange maternity leave with the help of MYoMY, which is very unique in Bangladesh.
However, the maternity leave did not go down well with Sultana’s husband. The predominantly masculine culture in Bangladesh is based on the man as the breadwinner and not the woman. Taslima says: “her husband wanted to collect the money himself, and then invest it. I didn’t believe that. I went to Sultana’s house with a colleague and told him that Sultana would receive the money and that she could simply come back to work after her leave.” In the meantime, Sultana has chosen for herself, has broken ties with her husband and no longer has contact with him. “She’s okay with it.”
Fortunately, Talita could count on the support of her husband during her pregnancy, the delivery and during the maternity period: “Tim was my biggest support and rock. He knew exactly what to do, was fully subservient to my needs and followed me and my birthing body. He has bathed with me during both births, taking care of his daughters with his own hands. We were very close during my deliveries and I really don’t know how I would have done without him.”
“I like to take on the challenge, who else is going change things?”
The differences between the stories of Sultana and Talita seem great, but also in the Netherlands a social revolution was needed to tackle the division of roles. It was not until the end of the 1950s that women were given the same rights as men. The pill as contraception and the right to abortion allowed women in the Netherlands to take their future into their own hands. Taslima hopes that a similar revolution will take place in Bangladesh in the coming years. Contraception and financial independence play an important role in this, allowing women to choose their own dreams and happiness. In any case, Taslima does everything it can to inspire as many women as possible: “I like to take on the challenge, who else is going change things?”
Much has changed in the division of roles between men and women since emancipation and this is still developing in the Netherlands. With the rise of maternity leave for partners, there is more and more room for men to also take on part of the care for the children. This can mean a lot in the freedom for women, Talita also knows: “When I started working again after Malía’s birth, Tim decided to work three days a week, one day at the weekend so that he could spend most of the time at home. Malía did not have to go to daycare the first year. It is very special that he wanted and was able to do this and not a standard voluntary choice for a man. This gave me the space to further develop myself as an entrepreneur and to create beautiful things. I have great admiration for how he has taken up parenting and how well he has supported Malía’s development.”
Both Talita and Taslima prove that motherhood and entrepreneurship can go hand in hand and that by questioning gender roles, we can take many more steps towards global empowerment of women. By sharing their stories and by supporting Taslima with her mission, we can make a difference. From the Netherlands to Bangladesh.
Mother’s Day tip
If you want to put a mother or mommy-to-be in the spotlight during Mother’s Day, the MY PAPER BAG Baby might just be the perfect gift. This beautiful diaper bag (which can also be used as a work bag) is Fair Trade produced and contributes to MYoMY’s mission to create as many fair trade working hours as possible with a chain of empowerment. But that is not everything! With every purchase of the MY PAPER BAG Baby, MYoMY donates 8 euros to Plan International NL. The amount required for an official birth certificate. Worldwide, more than 290 million children under the age of 5 are not legally registered. Birth registration is extremely important for their future. With a birth certificate, children can get health care, register for an exam, apply for ID and vote later in life. Read here more about the collaboration between MYoMY and PLAN International NL.
Author: Megan van Slooten
Publicationdate: May 2, 2022