Women empowerment: Is Bangladesh setting any example for the world?
Amidst hundreds of odds, Bangladesh had been able 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.”
To attain the goals initiated by Bangladesh government for women’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.
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.
(Dhaka Tribune: April 17 of 2018- the report has been slightly abridged here).
Developing women entrepreneurship in Bangladesh – Problems and Prospects
1. Among the total number of entrepreneurs in Bangladesh, above 10 percent are women. Many women have showed and proved their skills and beat their male counterparts in the small and cottage industries, especially the handicrafts sector; while many courageous entrepreneurs have excelled in Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). It’s a good news for Bangladesh that in higher education, participation of females has been increased significantly. Ministry of Education of the country shows that among the total students in university level 30.03 percent are females where in public university the rate is 34.26 percent and in private university the rate is 25.27 percent.
The question is what the female university graduates are doing after completion of their graduation? Quarterly Labor Force Survey (QLFS) 2015-16 by Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics has showed frustrating information that unemployment rate among the female graduates is very high which is about 2.5 times higher than their male counterparts: 16.8 percent.
Women’s participation in jobs is not significant although women enrolment has been increased significantly at the university levels. The frustrating statistics is that that among the employed population of 5.95 crore, 0.7 percent females are managers and 5.6 percent are professionals (According to QLFS- Quarterly Labour Force Survey-2015-16). There are lot of factors are reasoned for this situation that means why women are lagging behind in the employment. Lack of safety and security, negative intention to engage in job, social & family barriers, balancing between family and career, sexual harassment, unfriendly work environment and women's preference to do certain kinds of jobs are also reasoned for the high frustrating unemployment among the educated females. ( To be continued )
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