District AL struggling to find eligible women
The governing Awami League is expected to go for an increase in the number of female politicians in its central working committee (ALCWC). The party has at present only 11.34% women in leadership roles in its organizational hierarchy.
Sources close to policy planning in the party have said there will be a marked enhancement in the number of female participants at the upcoming national council of the Awami League.
Despite the Awami League’s placing much priority on the place of female politicians in its central body, the party has a very small number of top leaders at the district level. A similar trend is noticed at the grassroots level.
At first glimpse, one would definitely appreciate the fact that key political positions, including in the executive and legislative branches of the government, are held by women. Nonetheless, the reality speaks of the number of women in top leadership positions in the major political parties remaining small.
The Awami League, which has been in power for more than 10 years, is no exception to such a situation.
Awami League Presidium member Begum Matia Chowdhury told Dhaka Tribune yesterday: "Our party chief is trying heart and soul to increase the number of female politicians at every level of the party. But there are times when the situation is not in our favour. It is hard to find competent female leaders in the district units who can be promoted to the upper tier of leadership in the district-level committees."
"In 1981 when Sheikh Hasina for the first time took charge of the party as its president, she chose Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury as general secretary. That was a courageous decision in a country like Bangladesh. We heard a lot of criticism swirling around the party on her decision. But our leader Sheikh Hasina didn’t deviate from her path or pay any attention to those critics. It is on the basis of this precedent that the prime minister wishes to have female leaders in the top leadership of the party," she added.
A top-ranking leader of the ruling party, seeking anonymity, told Dhaka Tribune that the prime minister had recently hinted to the party's top brass that more opportunities would be created for female leaders in the party’s central body at the upcoming council.
Sounding a note of rebuke to the party’s top secretary posts, the prime minister said: "You have failed to hold council meetings in your respective upazila and districts properly. I will replace all of you and open up space for my female colleagues."
"Sheikh Hasina's message was clear, which was that female politicians would have been more reliable. She might consider choosing more women for vital roles in the party in future," a joint secretary of the party told Dhaka Tribune.
The third amendment to the Representation of the People Order (RPO), 1972 requires political parties to set the goal of reserving at least 33% of all committee positions for women, including in the central committee, progressively achieving this goal by the year 2020. Correspondingly, the Awami League election manifesto also aimed at ensuring 33% representation of women within the party by 2021.
Sheikh Hasina has been serving as Bangladesh Awami League president since 1981. Currently, she has 13 female colleagues in the 81-member central committee of the party. The Awami League has three female presidium members, which is the apex body of the party’s central committee.
It is to be noted that women in Bangladesh continue to lag substantially behind men in terms of their representation in leadership positions.