International Women's Day on March 8 reminds us that women's empowerment is the prerequisite for sustainable development. Women's participation in the workplaces, leadership role in the political and social arena, and access to education, healthcare, and credit can be regarded as empowerment of women. The day provides all an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women while calling for greater equality in all spheres of life. Several events will take place to mark the economic, political, and social achievements of women and several organizations, government, charities, educational institutions, women's groups, corporations including the media will celebrate the day in a befitting manner. Bangladesh like all other UN member-states will observe the day with renewed pledge to protect women's rights and ensure women's participation in all spheres of national life.
Ban Ki-Moon, the UN Secretary-General in his message on the day emphasized on the importance of gender equality as there is no greater investment in our common future. UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka called for observance of the day in a befitting manner as for this year's celebration of IWD is the first within the new 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development Goals and asserted for ensuring Gender Equality and Empowerment of women and girls at all spheres in life for building stronger economies and healtheir societies.
As we know, the major obstacles faced by women and girls in their way to development in Banglaesh are marked as sexual harassment, child marriage and dowry etc. All these are preventable through united efforts of all and change of attitude towards women. They also face economic disparity.
The government of Bangladesh is committed to attaining the objectives of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Beijing Platform for Action and Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved by 2030 in conformity with the fundamental rights enshrined in the Bangladesh constitution. It has adopted the National Policy for Women's Advancement (2011) and series of programs for ensuring sustainable development of women.
Regarding leadership role in politics there has been an encouraging trend in the number of women of elected parliamentarians (20 per cent of total seats). About literacy, Bangladesh was the first country in South Asia to achieve gender parity in priamary education, which is now compulsory and free for all children aged between 6 and 10. All the children attending primary and secondary school receive textbooks for free. The education of girls up to grade XII in public institutions is also free. Stipends are awarded to girl students to avert dropout. MDGs-Bangladesh progress report 2012 reveals that it has made commendable progress in respect of increasing equitable access in education (Net Enrolment Rate:98.7 percent; girls 99.4 per cent, boys: 97.2 per cent). The government is in the process of implementing a comprehensive National Education Policy, providing Bangladesh's intention to ensure all citizens with a quality education wtih an emphasize removing gender based disparities.
In view of the needs of mothers, the government has extended maternity leave for mothers from four months to six months. Bangldesh has achieved tremendous success in cutting down maternal mortality rate by more thatn 66 per cent during the last two decades and is dropping around 5.5 per cent each year. Steps have been taken to reduce this to 63 per 100,000 live bith by 2030 and for extending delivery of primary health care services through community clinics to rural, marginal and vulnerable women.
Relentless efforts of the government have been reflected though passing of Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act 2010 and in order to effectively implementing the law government has formulated Domestic Violence (prevention and protection) Rules 2013. Other laws included- Prevention and Restraintment of Human Trafficking Act 2012 and Pornography Control Act 2011. In addition to enactment of laws, one-stop crisis centres provide medical treatment, legal support, policy assistance and rehabilitation to the victims, DNA profiling lab and DNA screening lab have been established for the benefits and welfare of women.
Economic support and social safety net: In order to expedite women's fortunes extensive programme have been taken for their training, creating job opportunities and ensuring participatin in the job market and providing support through SMEs. Extensive social safety net programme have been undertaken by providing various kinds of allowances namely destitute women allowances, maternity and lactating-mother allowances, disabled women allowances, divorced women allowances. Vulnerable Group Feeding (VGP) is carried out to ensure food security to vulnerable extreme poor women. For economic emancipation and empowerment of rural women collateral free micro-credit is given with nominal service charge.
As a result, Bangladesh women have come out vigorously with hundreds of thousands of initiatives for changing fortune of their fortunes. They have brought a social trasforation with their participation in the economic development in the country. Today, women are in everywhere- in the administration, judiciary, eduation, health-care sector, engineering, banking and insurance, entreprenuership and business and in fact every sector.
The constitution of Bangladesh emphasize on the rights of women. The developing country committed to achieve various socio-economic targets for the welfare of the people. Keeping half of the total population-women, a strong nation equipped with socio-economic development cannot be expected. As such, government has given priority to accelerate the rights and dignity of women in the society. With government efforts, NGOs, public representatives, civil societies, individuals and family and in fact all from respective places can work together to achieve the goals for sustainable development.
MA Jabbar is a banker and executive secretary of national
anti-tobacco organization, ADHUNIK