02/14/2019, 17.30
BANGLADESH
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Bangladesh’s first Catholic woman MP dedicates her victory to all Christians

by Sumon Corraya

Gloria Jharna Sarker, a 40-year-old lawyer and a mother of two, has a long history of involvement as a student in Christian associations and in favour of women. She pledged to work for needy children, women and young people.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) - Bangladesh, a predominantly Muslim country, has its first Christian woman lawmaker. Gloria Jharna Sarker, a 40-year-old lawyer and mother of two children, was elected from the Khulna, southern Bangladesh.

As soon as her victory was confirmed yesterday, the news spread across the country and Christians sent their congratulations. Speaking to AsiaNews, the new Member of Parliament said that this "Victory is not only mine, but of the whole Christian community. I thank God for choosing me to serve the needy."

Ms Jharna Sarker is the first Christian woman to be elected to Parliament since Bangladesh gained independence 47 years ago.

Before her, only two men were elected to parliament. Promode Mankin, a Catholic, was an MP between 2009 and 2014 as well as Social Affairs minister between 2009 and 2012. His son, Jewel Areng, was elected for the first time in 2016 in a by-election and re-elected in last December’s general election.

Ms Jharna Sarker was endorsed by Card Patrick D'Rozario, archbishop of Dhaka and Bangladesh’s first cardinal. For this reason, she is grateful to “Pope Francis and Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario for their blessings, and that is why today I am here.”

The new MP is a member of the Awami League of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, whose party won the election of 30 December 2018. Her party took 43 seats (out of 50) reserved for women in the National Parliament (Jatiya Sangsad).

On Tuesday, the party submitted its list to the Election commission, which validated it yesterday. Gloria Jharna Sarker’s name was on it, and the new MP will take the oath of office on 4 March.

A devout Catholic, Jharna Sarker is a member of the Chalna parish, in Khulna. She is a lawyer by training and her husband is a businessman.

She has long history of student activism in Catholic associations and women's groups such as the Young Women's Christian Association, the Bangladesh Christian Association and the Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council.

Injured in a blast that killed 24 people and wounded 300 in 2004 in Dhaka, she never thought of giving up on political action.

"I am from a coastal area where people are neglected and struggle to survive. I will work for needy children, women and young people," she said.

“In the Khulna area there is a great need for female empowerment”, she explained; at the same time, “I will focus on what Prime Minister Hasina tells me to do."

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