Women Empowerment

Meher Afroze, MP, Minister of State for Women and Children Affairs speaking at the General Debate of the 62nd Commission on Status of Women (CSW) on 21 March 2018 at UNHQs, New York

Bangladesh attaches the highest importance to achieving gender equality and women empowerment. Women had glorious contribution in our independence struggle. Our Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had sown the seed of gender parity having rightly identified at the beginning of our statehood that without establishing equal rights of women by providing for equal opportunities in “all spheres of national life” we cannot have desired level of social upliftment. This was duly enshrined in our Constitution.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, daughter of our Father of the Nation, followed her father’s vision and put women empowerment at the heart of our development endeavours. The government has set forth highest priority in women advancement and empowerment issues. Due to continuation of the policies, strategies and allocation of budget conducive to the welfare of women, Bangladesh has achieved remarkable success in women empowerment.

International community has recognized Bangladesh’s contribution to the cause of advancement of women over the years. In recent times, the Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina received awards like “Planet 50-50 Champion” by UN-Women and “Agent of Change Award” by Global Partnership Forum in 2016. For outstanding contribution to women empowerment, she was awarded “Global Women’s Leadership Award” from Global Summit of Women 2018 in Sydney, Australia.

Under “Vision 2021” to build a knowledge based modern “Digital Bangladesh”, we are investing heavily to enhance human capital and create an inclusive society through equal access to technology and innovation. In all these endeavours, women and youth feature most prominently. And we are seeing the results. We achieved gender parity in primary and secondary level education years back. Now we are turning into more quality and skill-based education including through vocational training.

According to the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Indices, Bangladesh consolidated its position further by closing its political gender gap securing top five position in the WEF global index on the Political Empowerment sub-index (from last year’s 7th). For the last three years, Bangladesh has topped the South Asian countries in gender equality. Bangladesh has made progress across all dimensions of economic opportunity and participation. Bangladesh has improved in terms of creating equal opportunities for legislators, senior officials and managerial roles, as well as professional and technical roles.

It is due to the active engagement of government with all stakeholders that we now see that proactive policies, strategies and affirmative actions are in place for women empowerment. National Women Development Policy has been adopted. Social safety net protection for ultra-poor women include widow and destitute women allowance, lactating mother and pregnant women allowance, food security program, collateral free loan for women entrepreneurs, skill development training including ICT sector, stipend for promoting girl’s education and providing health services to mother and child.

Women hold important constitutional positions. Hon’ble Prime Minister, Speaker, Deputy Leader of the House and Deputy Leader of the Opposition are all women. There are 50 reserved seats for women in parliament and 23 women are directly elected. Women serve in police, armed forces, UN peacekeeping missions and are elected representatives in local government.

At the UN, Bangladesh remains engaged with all member states in promoting the human rights of women and girls in advancing the cause of women. Women can play a diverse role as “agent of change” in realizing the goals and targets of Agenda 2030. Bangladesh joined an initiative under the President of the 73rd United Nations General Assembly, Ms. Maria Fernanda Espinosa Gerces, the Group of Gender Equality Leaders and its ‘Call for Action’. Hon’ble Speaker of Bangladesh Parliament Dr. Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, MP attended the second meeting on 15 July 2019 at the UNHQs in New York.

In addition, Bangladesh has been partnering with other Member States in organizing events on the occasion of International Day of Women and Girls in Science which is observed every year on 11 February. Earlier in 2018, Bangladesh joined as one of the signatories of the outcome document. In 2019, we were one of the co-sponsor countries partnering with RASIT to organize the event at the UN on 11 and 12 February, 2019. The theme of this year event was “Investment in Women and Girls in Science for Inclusive Green Growth” which saw 89 Member States endorsing the outcome document.

In 2018-2019, Bangladesh carried out another significant responsibility at the 62nd Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) by carrying out the responsibilities of one of the four Vice Chairs. Bangladesh represented the Asia-Pacific Group as the Vice-Chair at the Bureau of 62nd CSW. As part of our various responsibilities during the session, Bangladesh also facilitated two package resolutions namely “Twenty-fifth anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women” and “Future organization and methods of work of the Commission on the Status of Women”. The first resolution was important in that it contained the decision of holding a one day high-level meeting of the General Assembly which will be convened in the margins of the 75th session of the GA in 2020 [The year 2020 will mark the 25th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing (Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action)]. Following the resolution at the CSW, the ECOSOC and then General Assembly adopted subsequent resolutions to hold the events in 2020.

Bangladesh in due recognition of her role in women empowerment has been elected as a member to the Commission on Status of Women (2019-2022); and also, will be playing active role at Executive Board of UNWOMEN (2019-2021). This is the reflection of the trust and confidence that the international community repose on Bangladesh.

While highlighting the women empowerment in Bangladesh, we bring into the fore the need to have the political commitment and leadership to translate the vision, policy, strategies and actions in support of the cause of women empowerment.

Bangladesh is facing ongoing crisis due to the presence of the huge number of Forcibly Displaced Myanmar Nationals (also known as Rohingyas), we tried to highlight the plight of the women and children who constitute more than 60% of the population that took refuge inside Bangladesh.