Hiren Pandit: The history of women’s liberation in Bangladesh is long, from the direct participation of women in the war of independence to the empowerment of women, Bangladesh’s progress is commendable. Bangladesh’s women’s movement stands on a solid foundation due to a strong administrative and legal framework, and a conscious civil society, which has played an effective role in establishing women’s rights and creating a women-friendly environment. Bangladesh has signed the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) since its inception.
Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman struggled throughout his life to establish the rights of the people of this country. He has taken various steps to establish the rights of women who are victims of violence, oppressed, exploited, and deprived of family, social, political and economic rights. Bangabandhu realized that half of the total population of the country is women. The overall development of the country is not possible without them. Right after independence, in 1972, the constitution confirmed the equal rights of women. Reserve seats for women to speak for women in the highest national legislative body, the National Parliament. The Women’s Rehabilitation Board was established in 1972 with the aim of rehabilitating women persecuted by the Pakistani forces and rehabilitating war children. Victims of torture have held the seat of dignity with the title of Heroic Freedom Fighters. Following the path of the father of the nation, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the daughter of the father of the nation, has taken various steps for the development of women, employment of women, empowerment of women and equal rights of women.
Eliminating discrimination against women in all forms of education, especially increasing participation of women in higher education including primary and secondary education, accelerating women’s empowerment was one of the main goals. Gender equality and women’s empowerment have been considered as one of the main issues since independence. The reason given was that gender equality and women’s empowerment will play an important role in poverty alleviation. Bangladesh has been able to reduce the gender disparity in primary education and has made significant progress. A significant number of female students have also been admitted at the secondary and higher secondary levels. Information technology literacy is playing an important role in creating gender equality.
Bangladesh has achieved great success in empowering women and creating gender equality, but violence against women is still far behind. For example, more than 67 percent of women have been victims of domestic violence at some point in their family life. Bangladesh has achieved success in some areas in terms of women’s development and elimination of gender inequality, but it is not yet time to say that the overall progress is entirely promising.
It is time to think more about ensuring women’s economic, social, cultural and environmental justice, above all human rights, in development frameworks and plans. The global discussion about the new development model for women mainly focuses on 4 issues. First, establishing women’s ownership of land and natural resources. It appears that establishing women’s ownership or control over land ensures food sovereignty for families and communities, elimination of malnutrition and sustainable agricultural systems. In many countries, women’s rights to land are limited by law, family law and matrimonial law. We have to remember that land is not only a source of income but also associated with social and cultural rights. In addition to establishing women’s rights and control over land, they must establish and ensure their ownership over water, natural resources, biodiversity, etc.
Decent working environment and wages. To think about the new development model, we must first discuss the fair wages of workers, especially the wages of women workers. Poverty alleviation is never possible without quality working conditions and fair wages. It is a sad fact that most of our workers are women workers who work in various service industries including garments, agriculture, and domestic and they are working under very deplorable conditions.
Peace and justice or fairness. Peace, security and stability are very important for just and sustainable development, especially when it comes to the security and rights of women. If the rule of law is not established, the vacuum of good governance has a negative impact on ensuring women’s rights. Women also need to ensure leadership and participation in decision-making at all levels, starting at home and continuing up to the highest levels of government. Gender equality is a fundamental right. Creating gender equality is a practical and effective step towards the development of a country. In addition to making the country a middle-income country, sustainable development is very important in building an inclusive society.
Women are advancing in the world; Women of Bangladesh are not left out. In particular, the use of information technology has advanced the country’s women’s society by several steps. As well as increased opportunities for empowerment. Half of the population of Bangladesh are women. Like the rest of the world, the government of Bangladesh has given special importance to involving women in the IT sector in the hope of building a digital Bangladesh. According to the Global Gender Gap Index 2020 published by the World Economic Forum, Bangladesh ranks 50th among 153 countries and tops in South Asia. Utilizing the current world’s progress in the digital sector for the purpose of eliminating gender inequality, so that technology to establish women’s equal rights and combat sexual violence is a democratic, humanitarian approach that is supportive and creative.
Currently, women’s participation is visible in almost all sectors of society. The attendance of girls at the primary level of education is now 100%. A majority of the achievements in the apparel industry are women. But the question arises. In Bangladesh, where women constitute 50 percent of the total population, progress is visible among very few women. Overall development of the country is not possible without the empowerment and development of women.
To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, progress must be made in achieving goals 5 and 10. The main spirit of the liberation war was to build a society without discrimination. It is also reflected in the constitution of Bangladesh. But in 52 years have we been able to build a non-discrimination society? Even if the terms of the CEDAW Charter are implemented, there is no alternative to eliminate gender discrimination. Reducing discrimination against women and creating equal opportunities through gender-responsive budgeting. Through the proper implementation of gender budgeting, great progress has been achieved in the areas of political, economic and social empowerment of women, gender equality in primary and secondary education, reduction of infant and maternal mortality, health and immunization. Women’s development and empowerment are visible through the socio-economic progress of women. For this reason, it is necessary to ensure the government’s patronage and financial allocation in the field of women’s employment creation, development as entrepreneurs and social security.
In today’s technological world, the development and use of technology have brought the people of the world closer together. As a result, economic progress has also been achieved along with increased communication. However, since all classes of people do not have equal access to technology, the benefits of this progress have not reached all people equally. The question of how much the existing technology is women-friendly is coming to the fore. Women lag behind greatly in accessing and enjoying its benefits. About 55% of women are still out of technology. Technology has helped human society to turn around. Even the section of women in society who had access to technology also got this benefit. They have shown equal skill in using technology. To be freed from unemployment, and poverty, she chose various employment including technology-based entrepreneurs. Continued educational programs with the help of technology, availed various government facilities including training programs. Therefore, women’s access to technology should be increased.
In the 20th century, Begum Rokeya called for the creation of a society based on gender equality, today Bangladesh is moving forward after 52 years on the path of creating that society. Considering all aspects, it can be said without a doubt that Bangladesh is a role model for women’s empowerment in the world today. Today, Bangladesh leads the world in all the indicators that are used to evaluate women’s empowerment. The Prime Minister of the country is a woman, the speaker of the national parliament is a woman, and the leader of the opposition is a woman. What can be a greater positive condition for the development of women’s society? Various national and international policies, including the constitution of Bangladesh, have given special importance to women’s political-social empowerment and participation.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina came to power in 2009 and formulated the National Women Development Policy-2011. Elected a woman to the post of Speaker of the National Parliament. Sheikh Hasina was the first in her cabinet to appoint women as Home Minister and Foreign Minister. The Deputy Leader of the Parliament is also a woman. Some of the civil society said that if the country’s prime minister, speaker and opposition leader are women, women will be empowered! It cannot be said, but it is also true that the appointment of women in such important positions has increased the confidence of women, resulting in long-lasting and far-reaching empowerment of women. The provision of women vice chairpersons in upazila parishads and three women members in union parishads to be elected by participating in the elections has been confirmed. Women of Bangladesh are now not only judges, district commissioners, and superintendents of police, but are performing the responsibilities of policy-making and state management with efficiency. Success in all challenging professions including education, medicine, science and technology and diplomatic skills, sports, mountaineering, working in NASA. In Bangladesh, there are now women officials working in important government secretaries or equivalent positions, including many important ministries, which was not the case earlier. The Sheikh Hasina government appointed the first woman as a High Court judge, the first woman Vice-Chancellor of the University, and the first woman as Major General of the Army.
The position of women officers in the administration is strong. At present, there are 10 people in the rank of senior secretary and secretary, and 9 people in DC and 55 female officers of additional secretary rank. Many of them are serving as chairman and director general of various organizations. 164 women are serving as upazila executive (Nirbahi) officers. 163 women officers are performing government duties in the post of joint secretary. 370 women are holding the post of deputy secretary. Besides, 162 women officers are working in the post of Additional Deputy Commissioner and 133 in the post of Assistant Commissioner (Land). 433 women working in the post of Assistant Secretary/Commissioner are performing duties at the field level. Many are also serving as executive magistrates. Besides, there are 433 officers of the rank of Assistant Secretary and Assistant Commissioner.
In order to advance the country, half of the population should not be left behind from the use of information technology to establish equality between men and women in the implementation of development plans. Equality should be brought about by changing the perspective. Access to information technology should be increased and trained. In this case, there should be an investment plan for women. By expanding the use of information technology, today there is an opportunity to change the perspective of the family, society and the state. Through this women’s human rights, human beings, and creativity will be recognized and established.
As women hold the reins of the world with a strong hand, they are unique in the outside world as well. Despite being subjected to discrimination at various levels of life, women have set precedents in various fields by crossing that barrier. Bangladesh is at the forefront of South Asian countries in terms of reducing gender inequality, to continue this trend of success, women must be prioritized in policy making and allocation of funds. Deterioration in standard of living due to inflation, loss of employment, reduction in income, etc., is likely to have an adverse impact on women. Then progress in the health and nutritional status of women and girls will be hindered. Strong initiatives are needed to ensure the safety of women everywhere, both at home and outside.
To bear the burden of poverty for women at the grassroots level, free labor at home, low prices for produce, food in exchange for work, or precarious civilian jobs are also narrowed. They do not have access to land use and access to capital, nor do they have access to control power through production. Instead of reinforcing systems that currently exploit women’s cheap labor in development, the causes of social and economic exploitation, which give rise to class and gender inequality, should be explored and analyzed. Women’s family and social empowerment, a safe and women-friendly work environment are needed to achieve equal status for women. Increase in political empowerment and quality or real status.
Although the women’s society has made considerable progress in the long journey of the women’s movement, the issue of gender equality has not yet been fully established. It is present not only in Bangladesh but all over the world. The development of the country or society depends on the overall contribution and participation of the people. That is, the desired development is not possible without the participation of half of the population (women) of the society. In Bangladesh, women’s participation in the state system and social activities has increased, but it remains far below the desired level. Not only that, violence and deprivation of women have not been significantly reduced. The women of the country is still a victim of various types of family violence, and social and state deprivation. 33 percent participation of women in all fields including national politics has not yet been implemented. Empowerment of women at the local government level is not effective. The question remains whether reserved women’s seats and reserved women’s quota are pushing women further back.
Women’s leadership has been running the country for more than three decades in Bangladesh. The country’s Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition and Speaker of the National Parliament are women. There may not be another example like this in the world. There is no doubt about the political empowerment of women in that country. Bangladesh ranks seventh in the world in women’s political empowerment. Seats reserved for women in the National Parliament have been increased to 50. At present, there are 72 women MPs including 22 elected and reserved seats. There are more than 12,000 elected women representatives at the local level.
One of the indicators of women’s development is women’s participation in the workplace. Currently, the participation rate of women in the workplace is 38 percent. The backbone of the economy of Bangladesh is the garment sector. More than 70 percent of the workers in this sector are women. Again the largest service sector of the country is healthcare. More than 70 percent of the workers in this sector are women. Women’s contribution to the domestic product (GDP) is about 20 percent. Article 19(3) of the Constitution of Bangladesh states that the state shall ensure women’s participation and equal opportunities at all levels of national life. In addition to establishing the proper status of women, with the aim of economic, social, administrative and political empowerment, the government is implementing comprehensive programs to prevent all types of violence against women, including spreading women’s education, establishing rights, and empowering them. As a result of the successful implementation of various initiatives of the government, the development of women is clearly visible today. Through the successful participation of women in all fields including business, politics, judiciary, administration, diplomacy, armed forces, law enforcement, and peacekeeping missions, the country is gradually progressing on the path of development.
Women’s empowerment is considered one of the prerequisites for global development, but if we observe the development of the developed world in the global context, it can be seen that today’s developed countries are not in a very satisfactory state in terms of women’s empowerment; Rather, women in different countries are suffering from different discrimination. Here, however, inequality can be seen in many ways, but the main inequalities that are considered to be major barriers to development are in health and survival, participation in education, economic opportunity and politics. Considering the overall situation, everyone says that Bangladesh is a role model for women’s development and is moving forward positively in achieving gender equality.
Hiren Pandit is a columnist and a researcher