The number of working women increased to 18.6 million in 2016-17 from 16.2 million in 2010. Bangladesh secured the 47th position among 144 countries in 2017 as per The Global Gender Gap Report, whereas India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and Pakistan remain at 108, 109, 111, 124 and 143 positions respectively
Bangladesh has been a role model in women’s empowerment in the past decade, and the country is experiencing an appreciable change in society because of its efforts in this regard.
The concept of women’s empowerment and efforts in this area has helped the country attain a steady progress in gender equality, which helped Bangladesh to secure the first spot in gender equality (among South Asian countries) for the second consecutive year at the Gender Gap Index of 2017.
The index, prepared by World Economic Forum, measures education, economic participation, health, and political empowerment to measure gender equality of any country.
Half of the population of Bangladesh is women and their economic participation has increased significantly. In fact, national and international policy strategies have also been reflected in the policy to ensure women’s advancement so that they have control over their lives and play an influential role in society as decision makers.
The number of working women increased to 18.6 million in 2016-17 from 16.2 million in 2010. Bangladesh secured the 47th position among 144 countries in 2017 as per The Global Gender Gap Report, whereas India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and Pakistan remain at 108, 109, 111, 124 and 143 positions respectively.
Bangladesh’s achievements in the past decade have been exemplary in many sectors such as in reducing infant and child mortality, poverty alleviation, increase in women entrepreneurship, education, and health.
Political Scientist Dr Rounaq Jahan said: “Bangladesh has made consistent policy and program interventions from the 1970s onwards to improve women’s condition and reduce gender inequality.
“Both the government and non-government sectors have played significant roles and they have often worked in a collaborative fashion. Early interventions were made in the field of family planning to reduce fertility and micro-credit was introduced to provide opportunities for income earning.”
“In the 1990s there were efforts made to expand primary education, achieve gender parity in secondary schools through special stipend for female students and improve maternal mortality.
“Mobilization of rural women by NGOs in villages to get services and use of women community level workers to provide door step services in health and family planning played an important role in improving infant,child and maternal health and income earning opportunities,”she said, adding: “Mobilization of women was important in strengthening their voice in demanding their rights and services.”
Executive Director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Dr Fahmida Khatun told the Dhaka Tribune that Bangladesh is improving in the area of women’s empowerment – but to ensure sustainability, more emphasis should be given in skills development, higher education, technology based education, and capacity building.
“A large number of women were employed in the RMG sector but now it’s decreasing. Most of the women are employed in informal sector – which is 85% and are low-income jobs. Through technology based education, they aim for getting jobs in high-income industries,” said Dr Fahmida Khatun.
This year, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was honoured with the Global Women’s Leadership Award for her outstanding leadership for the advancement in women’s education and women entrepreneurship in Bangladesh and in the Asia Pacific region.
Earlier in 2016, UN Women also awarded Sheikh Hasina with “Planet 50-50 Champion” while Global Partnership Forum handed over the “Agent of Change Award” for her role in women’s empowerment.
Back in 2014, she was awarded with “WIP Global Forum Award” from Women in Parliament (WIP) and Unesco for her leading role in reducing gender gap in the political sphere in South and South-East Asia. She also received the “Tree of Peace” Award for promoting girls’ and women’s education in the same year.
To attain the goals initiated by Bangladesh government forwomen’s development, the country has approved the highest allocation in history for the sector in the budget for 2018-19 fiscal year. Bangladesh considers women’s participation as a vital issue in the path of women’s empowerment as one of the main drivers of transforming the country’s status from low-income to middle-income one.
Women’s advancement through access to education, health, labour market, employment, and social protection have been prioritized, in the FY19 budget which is around 30% of total budget size.
The government also has allocated Tk100 crore for Women Entrepreneurship Fund and Tk 25 crore for Women Development Special Fund in FY19.
Samira Zuberi Himika, managing director of GIGA TECH and founder of Team Engine, said: “Mobility and availability of opportunities are extremely important for women and girls to strengthen their position among the working population.
“The last few years have been extremely positive for those[women] working in different sectors – alongside a steady rise in female leadership. Given the country’s current landscape where gender equity is not just a buzzword anymore, we can expect more visibility for working women in terms of availability and acceptability.”
Participation of girls in primary schools is increasing as their overall enrollment rose from 57% in 2008 to 95.4% in 2017. Bangladesh has topped the Gender Gap Index in the primary and secondary education category, and to continue the efforts to this end, the government has extended its stipend program for female students, and undertaken initiatives to make women-friendly environment and infrastructures.