Empowering women benefits not just Bangladesh, but the world as a whole
The future of Bangladesh rests immensely on girls and their proper upbringing. In all forms of our development -- the participation of the female gender must be ensured. Incidentally, in the Human Development Index, Bangladesh is progressing rapidly.
In the year 2017, Bangladesh achieved 36th place among 189 countries. It is worth mentioning that we can see the presence of women in every field and it is increasing day-by-day. But to maintain their level of participation we must continue to invest money, energy, and resources in them more.
The first investment that we can make is in the field of education.
This issue of girls’ education is in our focus again following Hefajat-e-Islam leader, Shah Ahmed Shafi’s comments on girls’ education. He said that girls need not go to schools.
People of different quarters including the politicians have vehemently protested against his remarks. But we must not be negatively influenced by the comments of Shafi and his likes. Contrarily, we must remember that Islam has given a lot of emphasis on the education of girls.
Problems like child marriage, malnutrition, maternity, and infant deaths need to be addressed and the solutions of most of these problems lie in education. The more women are educated, the less they face all these problems. So, girls must not be victims of gender discrimination, at least in the 21st century.
Education is not about only learning how to read and write -- to girls, it means something much bigger -- education will provide them with the light of knowledge, which can help them attain progress not only for themselves but also for the country.
The girls will learn how to maintain a balance between family and workplace too.
Education is closely related to female empowerment. And the first step towards women empowerment is education.
According to Rowlands (1997) “Women Empowerment looks at both cultivating the ‘power within’ (belief in self-worth, self-respect and self- acceptance) and power (ability) to make choices and influence others.”
Our government has taken many initiatives to impart education to girls. However, educating girls is still very challenging. Unlike males, less money is spent on women, particularly for adolescent girls. In addition, there exists a gap between girls’ enrollment rate in schools compared to boys.
According to a World Bank report from 2016, the enrollment rate of boys was 119% higher than that of girls.
There are various reasons for this difference -- poverty, ethnic, and religious discrimination, social prejudice, and a backdated outlook. We have to address these issues as soon as possible.
Another field that needs attention is the health sector. Majority of the women do not have access to health care services available in the country.
In addition, many of them are not even aware of health hazards. To prevent them, campaigns on various levels can be carried out. Moreover, the media can play a vital role in this regard.
The government must also think about creating more job opportunities for women. One of them is entrepreneurship. Women who want to start new businesses often lack capital.
On the other hand, many do not have proper guidance to start new businesses. But, it is very encouraging that many women entrepreneurs are working relentlessly to succeed in this sector and also trying to uphold the image of Bangladesh.
The task at hand may seem very daunting. But as Ban Ki-moon, the ex-General Secretary of the UN said: “There is no more valuable investment than in a girl’s education.”
Anika Tasneem is a freelance contributor.