Increasing opportunities for women to live full and free lives is crucial to development
How many women are absolutely poor in Bangladesh? How many women are physically or mentally tortured? Have any women needed legal or mental counseling? Have any women needed agricultural cards in Bangladesh? What are the impacts of Covid-19 on women?
What is their level of empowerment? What types of empowerment do women enjoy in a patriarchal society? Do they get their just honour for household work, care, love, and affection? Why is real women empowerment necessary for building a decent society?
The solution to all of these questions has been analysed very critically by the eminent economist Prof Dr Abul Barkat in his recently published book Boro Prodaye Somaj-Orthoniti-Rastro: Virus-er Mohabiporjoy Thekey Shobhon Bangladehs-er Shondhane (On the Large Canvas of Society-Economy-State: In Search of a Transition from the Virus-Driven Disaster to a Decent Bangladesh).
Global statistics show that in the developing world, women comprise half of the population and are the poorest of the poor, not merely in wealth but in every other index of development. 55% of women are directly or indirectly attached with agricultural activities around the world.
Bangladesh also falls in the developing country category. Around half of the population in Bangladesh comprises women. Professor Abul Barkat estimates that 80 million women live in 45 million families. Of this, 38 million women in 15 million households are absolutely poor. Every year, 2.3 million women suffer from mental/physical torture and they legal and health counseling.
Abul Barkat also explains women’s contribution to the economy of Bangladesh, estimating the time spent by both women and men on all types of daily activities, as well as the economic value of women’s uncounted activities, and generating recommendations to clarify women’s status in the family and society. He also suggests the possibility of a “decent social system” which can be built by properly empowering women.
He clarifies that the “decent social system” is based on a democratic state system, which puts loyalty to nature in the front position -- all socio-economic and political foundations should be built on the basis of the influence of nature.
There are three foundational components in this concept: (i) The social foundational component comprises a knowledge system that promotes free thinking and creativity; solidarity; secularism; freedom from all forms of superstition; rationality; and science; (ii) The economic foundational component includes people’s ownership of natural resources, social ownership of production, less wealth inequality, and a share and market-less system; and (iii) The political foundational component includes democracy, a lord-less state system, social justice, community administration, and the people’s responsibility to protect their motherland.
The fundamental objectives of the theory of a decent society are accelerating the process of human enlightenment, prioritizing knowledge and creativity, instilling a high sense of solidarity, freeing people from all forms of inequality, making a state which is 100% under the people’s ownership, and achieving master-less civic governance.
Abul Barkat presents 11 principles to renovate Bangladesh following the impact of Covid-19:
1. We want development-welfare-progression, but the development should be nature and environment oriented.
2. We need economic growth. We don’t need environmentally harmful and socially unjustified practices which are destructive.
3. Growth should include reducing inequality.
4. Growth must be oriented around creating employment.
5. Per capita income or GDP is not development. Healthy lives must be ensured for women, children, old people, marginalized communities, the poor, the deprived, and the isolated.
6. We want to transform the power of youth into real resources.
7. We want positive social impact.
8. People’s ownership of natural resources (land, water bodies, forest, space resources, coal, gas, and minerals) on behalf of nature.
9. We want to uphold human security and equal opportunity for the development of the state-society-economy.
10. We must promote local and inequality-reduced development philosophy.
11. We want to extract global economic opportunities.
To make Bangladesh a decent country, the political, social, and economic empowerment of women is indispensable.
Abul Barkat suggests eliminating all forms of discrimination and inequality against women in Bangladesh, crediting women entrepreneurs, removing all forms of violence against women, implementing national women policy (2011), increasing the budget for women in local governments, working towards indigenous women’s development, promoting gender equality research, incentivizing women to pursue vocational education, and implementing policies for gender-sensitive technology.
The SDGs include reducing inequality and ensuring decent jobs for all by 2030. So, we need proper strategies, financial support, and public participation.
Abul Barkat recommends providing opportunities for women to live full and free lives.
Shishir Reza is an environmental analyst and Associate Member, Bangladesh Economic Association. Motiur Rahman is Research Consultant, Human Development Research Centre (HDRC), Dhaka.