Bangladesh has emerged as a shining global model of women leadership when females take the leading position at every sphere of its political and social arena with discharging duties as prime minister, parliament speaker and cabinet ministers simultaneously.
According to the World Economic Forum, Bangladesh now ranks seventh in the world in the political empowerment of women where women hold 50 seats in Bangladesh’s National Parliament and 12,000 local political offices.
Apart from political leadership, Bangladesh is vying to break many glass ceilings by inducting more qualified women in other top positions in the judiciary, administration, defence, and diplomacy while the present Awami League government introduced gender budget, which is unique in the world.
The number of working women in Bangladesh increased to 18.6 million in 2016-17 from 16.2 million in 2010 due to many endeavours taken by the government. The country’s 57 percent of women engaged in the workforce, with 80 percent forming the backbone of its most foreign currency earner ready-made garments sector while Bangladesh is proud of its female peacekeepers who are holding the national flag high in many UN peacekeeping missions.
Even in the regional context, 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.
Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had started the process of uplifting the women status by establishing equal rights of them with man in all spheres of the state and of public life as constitutional obligation under Article-28 while his able daughter Bangladesh’s incumbent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has undertaken various steps to ensure women and children development.
“A society cannot raise its head high if women remain underdeveloped there,” said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina who has been ranked the 29th among the world’s 100 most powerful women by the US-based Forbes magazine, coincided with celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8 this year.
The Premier said the aim of her government is to create scope for women by protecting their rights. “Our goal is to ensure their presence in every sphere of life and we progressed much in this regard … Bangladesh’s girls demonstrated their success in many fields which many developed countries couldn’t,” she said. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has already been conferred with numbers of global awards as recognition for her outstanding contributions to women empowerment.
In March of 2019, the prime minister was honored with the “Lifetime Contribution for Women Empowerment Award” by the Institute of South Asian Women in Berlin while in April 2018 she received the Global Women’s Leadership Award by the US-based Global Summit of Women.
In 2016, The UN Women recognized Sheikh Hasina as “Planet 50-50 Champion” while the Global Partnership Forum honoured her with the “Agent of Change” award.
Besides, Women in Parliament (WIP) and UNESCO awarded the premier the “WIP Global Forum Award” for her leading role in reducing the gender gap in the political sphere in South and South-East Asia in March last year and “Tree of Peace” Award for promotion of girls’ and women’s education in September 2014.
“Bangladesh women have demonstrated their own talents, labour, and competence in different occupations,” said Bangladesh parliament speaker Shirin Sharmin Chowdhury who had also been elected as Chairperson of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA).
Current education minister Dr. Dipu Moni who earlier served as the foreign minister of Bangladesh said Bangabandhu made a great sacrifice to establish a society free from discrimination – where men and women would enjoy the equal rights.
Driven by the constitutional obligations the current government under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has put special emphasis on the programmes to promote women’s development in the 7th Five-year Plan, Sustainable Development Goals and National Women’s Policy, 2011.
The 7th Five Year Plan (2016-2020) is pursuing strategies and actions to establish “a country where men and women will have equal opportunities and rights and women will be recognized as equal contributors in economic, social and political development”.
And, the National Women Development Policy 2011 provides distinct guidelines in prevention of child marriage, removal of discrimination against disabled girls and their protection, ensuring secured and standard recreational, cultural and sports facility for the female child, and elimination of mental and physical abuse of women, rape, dowry, family abuse and acid throwing.
‘National Plan of Action’ has also been formulated to implement National Women Development Policy and prevention of violence against women and children while 529 adolescent clubs were introduced across the country for the empowerment of children and adolescents.
Besides, Women and Children Affairs Ministry has formulated Domestic Violence (Protection and Preservation) Rules, 2013 under Domestic Violence (Protection and Preservation) Act 2010 to ensure equal rights and to prevent all forms of discrimination in all spheres of public life and the state.
Moreover, the government has also adopted National Children Policy, 2011; Early Childhood Care and Development Policy, 2013; Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) Act, 2014 and Early Marriage Protection Act,2017 and rules-2018 in order to ensure the overall development of women and children.
Apart from framing various women-friendly laws and policy, Bangladesh government introduced gender budget, which is unique in the world, to transform women into a capable human capital through their political, social, administrative and economic empowerment.
Each ministry has set gender-sensitive budget and focal point on women’s development while the ratio of women officers in government service will be 25 percent by this year.
Secretary of the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs Kazi Raushan Akhter said that maternity leave has been extended to six months and maternity allowance and lactating mother allowance have been introduced.
One-Stop Crisis Centers (OCCs) have been set up at Dhaka, Rajshahi, Chittagong, Sylhet, Khulna, Barisal, Rangpur and Faridpur Medical College Hospitals under the Multisectoral Project to Prevent Violence Against Women.
With provisioning legal safeguard, the government has also offered a number of financial incentives to encourage women leadership in business. Between 2010 and 2013, banks and non-bank financial institutions have disbursed Taka 67 billion to 57,722 women entrepreneurs from their own sources.
Women are getting credit at concessional rate of 10 percent interest while 15 percent refinance fund is reserved for women entrepreneurs. Women are also entitled to SME loan up to Taka 2.5 million free of collateral, only against the personal guarantee.
Moreover, all banks and NBFIs have opened women entrepreneur dedicated desks to provide information and service to women entrepreneurs. However, right experts observed the targets for women development often hits a roadblock as their opinion does not get importance in the decision- making the process of the family due to prejudice and misinterpretation of religious conservatism of male-dominated society.
They suggested establishing a National Centre of Excellence for coordinating, monitoring and supervising the activities of violence against women and children, empowerment of women and protection of children under women and children affairs Ministry