Reviewing the Views
A balanced world for our women
International Women's Day (IWD) is celebrated on March 8 every year. This year International Women's Day 2019 campaign theme is #BalanceforBetter.
A balanced world is a better world.
Gender balance is essential to economies and for communities to thrive. Bangladesh has made consistent policy and program interventions from the 1970s onwards to improve women's condition and reduce gender inequality. As a result, Bangladesh topped South Asia in terms of gender equality as per the Global Gender Gap Report 2018, said the World Economic Forum.
Bangladesh closed the gender gap by 72%, said the study published.
According to the report, Bangladesh scored 0.719 on the gender parity index and was ranked the highest among South Asian nations. It also warned that Bangladesh still has a widening gender gap in terms of labour force participation. The report commended Bangladesh in terms of political empowerment for "recording progress on closing its political gender gap" but it also added that the country is experiencing "a widening gender gap in terms of labour force participation."
The current government is very serious about women empowerment issues. 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 the 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. 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, prepared by the World Economic Forum. 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 number of working women was 16.2 million in 2010.
The Prime Minister of Bangladesh 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 "WIP Global Forum Award" from Women in Parliament (WIP) and UNESCO for her leading role in reducing the 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.
However, the other side of the coin also suggests something else. Bangladeshi women have been struggling to establish their rights in family and society.
Practically in society, women are still facing discrimination, exclusion, and injustice and have negligible influence in decision-making processes. Girls are often considered a burden, especially for poor households, where they are at risk of marriage at an early age and where the practice of dowries though illegal continues and is burdensome.
Women are usually the last to eat at mealtimes and 30% of the women are chronically malnourished. Furthermore, violence against women makes women socially vulnerable and prevents them from fully participating in society.
Bangladesh has the unfortunate distinction of persistent early marriage (average age of marriage is 16.4 years) and early childbearing which often contributes to high fertility and maternal mortality. A number of laws exist to prevent violence against women but the enforcement of those laws remains a major challenge.
In this situation, how can we help to build a more gender-balanced world?
We have started celebrating women's achievement, raising awareness against bias, taking action for equality. We believe we shall be able to save our women from social injustices.
The future would be exciting then. Let's build a gender-balanced world. Everyone has a part to play - all the time, everywhere. From grassroots activism to worldwide action, we are entering an exciting period of history where the world expects balance. We notice its absence and celebrate its presence.
Balance indeed drives a better working world.
Tasmiah Nuhiya Ahmed is an advocate at the Supreme Court of Bangladesh.