Women’s empowerment still a long way off

Women in Bangladesh have yet to be financially, politically and socially empowered as equal rights in all spheres of state, society and family could not be guaranteed in 50 years of independence from the countries, said educators, entrepreneurs, human rights activists and professionals.

Although women’s participation in education, politics and employment sectors has increased during the period, they have not yet gained equal access to decision-making positions in society and families, they said.

Women have a long way to go to be empowered due to existing patriarchal systems and the mindset of the majority of people in Bangladesh, they said.

Various achievements of the state in empowering women are overshadowed by the rising rate of violence against women, including domestic violence, they added.

High rates of child marriage and income discrimination also act as a barrier, they said.

At present, there are 71 women legislators in Jatiya Sangsad, Bangladesh’s top legislature, out of 350. Although more than two-thirds of women legislators come from 50 reserved seats, this has been seen as a major step forward. for women in politics.

There are also seats reserved for women in local government bodies, including municipal corporations, municipalities, zilas, upazilas and union parishads.

More than 50% of workers in the country’s thriving textile industries are women.

Girls’ primary school enrollment is 100%.

According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021, released in March 2021, in the South Asia region, a wide gap separates the top performing country, Bangladesh, which has closed 71, 9% of its gender gap so far.

The report also states that in Bangladesh, 38.4% of women are active in the labor market, the presence of women in leadership positions is 10.7%, and women have held the position of CEO. State longer than men.

However, things are not always rosy for women in Bangladesh.

According to a UNICEF report, released in October 2020, 51% of young women in Bangladesh were married before their 18th birthday.

Bangladesh has the highest prevalence of child marriage in South Asia and is among the 10 countries in the world with the highest levels, according to the report.

A 2015 survey by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics and the United Nations Population Fund found that more than 70% of married women or girls in Bangladesh experienced some form of domestic violence, with around half said their partner physically assaulted them.

Political parties in Bangladesh have missed the 2021 deadline to ensure 33% representation of women on their committees.

On the sidelines of COP26 in Scotland, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said on November 2 during a high-level roundtable on women and climate change: “It is important to create space for women in decision-making. to address their vulnerability due to climate change.’

Rasheda Irshad Nasir, Chairperson of Department of Sociology, University of Dhaka, said empowerment of women has been achieved in many areas like employment sector.

Nowadays, women do few jobs like pilots, which are traditionally considered male jobs, she said.

But, Rasheda said, women are lagging behind in many areas, such as holding decision-making positions. In families, women still need to be recognized for their contributions, she said.

“We need a big change in our perception of women and should see them as human beings first,” she said.

“Women are still forced to bow to existing patriarchal systems in society.”

Rasheda also added that violence against women has increased to some degree.

Sangita Ahmed, a leading entrepreneur and senior vice president of the Bangladesh Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that over the past 15 to 20 years, a large number of women have emerged as entrepreneurs, as many women considered doing business a better option than attending the office from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

“Women have played a significant role in increasing the capital percentages of gross domestic product,” she said, adding that many women’s contribution to the economy still goes unrecognized because they are not have not yet formalized their business.

Sangita found that it was very difficult for women, especially in rural areas, to get bank loans due to the bad mentality of people in the system.

“If the authorities facilitate VAT registration and bank loan schemes for women, many of them will bring their small businesses into the formal system,” she added.

Rubana Huq, president of the Mohammadi Group and the first female president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said the garment industry provided financial freedom for many women, but there were still many things they couldn’t do yet.

“Financial freedom for women has arrived to some extent, but there is still a long way to go,” she said.

She observed that the challenge for women is always the same regardless of their social status.

“Although many women get work opportunities in the garment industry, they are rarely considered for management positions…as women are disadvantaged, it is difficult for them to reach even the level of supervisor,” said she declared.

Highlighting the progress made in empowering women, former acting government adviser and executive director of the Campaign for Popular Education, Rasheda K Choudhury, said the participation of women in all sectors, from grassroots political leadership, “has grown at an incredible rate over the past 50 years”.

But very few girls from poor rural families have access to quality higher education.

Bangladeshi President Mahila Parishad Fauzia Moslem said empowerment of women means equal rights in all fields and women in Bangladesh are lagging far behind in achieving this especially in the political sector .

As money, brawn and cash dominate the electoral system in Bangladesh, women often feel discouraged from participating, she said.

“It is regrettable for the nation that violence against women has also increased a lot in recent years,” said the human rights activist, adding: “The state could not escape the responsibility for the increase in violence against women because he did not ensure their safety,” she said.

Citing different newspaper reports, rights organization Ain O Salish Kendra said that 197 women were allegedly killed by their husbands between January and October in 2021, 240 in 2020, 218 in 2019, 193 in 2018, 213 in 2017 , 191 in 2016 and 212 in 2015.

Reports of 1,178 rapes were published in newspapers between January and October 2021, 1,627 in 2020, 1,413 in 2019, 732 in 2018, 818 in 2017, 724 in 2016 and 846 in 2015.

A report submitted by the police headquarters to the High Court last year also showed that the number of rapes had increased in five years.

Shaheen Anam, executive director of the Manusher Jonno Foundation, said it was clear that women were empowered politically, economically and socially, but felt that discrimination persisted.

“There is discrimination between different groups like educated and less educated or rural and urban. So the empowerment of women is still partial,” she said.

Even though enrollment of girls at primary level is 100%, their numbers are reduced at secondary level due to issues such as child marriage, she said.

“The rate of child marriage has gotten worse during the Covid pandemic,” Shaheen said.

Managing Director and Managing Director of Trust Bank Limited, Humaira Azam, has noted that the participation of women in different sectors has increased in recent years.

“Even the banking sector employs a large number of female members these days,” she said, adding that many women now hold different top-level positions in various private commercial banks.

According to Bangladesh Bank data, however, the proportion of female employees in banks fell to 18.32% in 2020 from 18.99% in 2019.

The number of women employed in banks fell to 28,378 at the end of December 2020 from 28,480 at the end of December the previous year, according to the latest available BB data.

Mara R. Wilmoth