SOFIA, May 18: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday urged the global community to work together to create a safer environment for women and girls, and empower them as agents of social transformation.
"And to achieve that, we need sincere commitments, and strong leadership," she told the inaugural function of the Global Women Leaders' Forum at the Forum National Art Gallery here as the keynote speaker.
Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev, Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Labour and Social Policy Ivaylo Kalfin, Minister of Energy Temenuzka Petkova, Minister of Regional Development and Public Works Lilyana Pavlova, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, Chairwoman of the National Assembly of Bulgaria Tsetska Tsacheva Dangovska and CEO, Siemens Bulgaria and Chairperson of Council of Women in Business in Bulgaria Boriana Manolova also spoke at the event.
"Let's today renew our commitment to make this world a better place for all; a better place for women, where we can live with dignity, free from all fear. Join me in saying: We Can Do It!" Hasina said.
Referring to the adoption of a transformative 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in New York last year, she said the new development agenda gave a strong emphasis on gender equality and empowerment of women.
Expressing her strong commitment to establish gender equality in Bangladesh, Hasina said, "I'm committed to breaking all barriers to achieve equality of men and women."
She mentioned that one of the major steps taken by her government was to formulate and implement an ambitious and groundbreaking National Women Development Policy, which guarantees equal opportunity for women.
Hasina said her government spends over 2 percent of GDP for social protection coverage, and its most of the beneficiaries are the less fortunate and destitute women.
Despite significant advancement, the Prime Minister said, "We also have challenges. We're yet to fully succeed in stopping the incidents of violence against women, child marriage or trafficking of women and girls."
She told her audience that her government has taken strong steps to end these social evils through a number of strict laws and administrative measures.
The Prime Minister said they have made education free for girls up to Grade 12 and have plans to make it free up to the tertiary level, while nearly 17.2 million students from primary to postgraduate levels have been brought under various stipend programmes.
Besides, she said, women represents nearly 85 percent of around 4.5 million workforce in crucial RMG sector, their participation is also growing in other sectors and professions like the civil service, the judiciary, armed forces, elite security force and other technical professions.
She said the print and electronic media are now vibrant with the presence of many women journalists, sportswomen excelling in cricket, football and even in mountaineering and they are serving in UN peacekeeping operations.
Hasina said, "Bangladesh is perhaps the only country in the world today that has woman Prime Minister and Leader of the House, Deputy Leader of House, Leader of the Opposition, and the Speaker."
She also expressed her personal gratitude to UNESCO for honouring her with the UNESCO 'Tree of Peace' Award, which was given for promoting girls' education and empowerment. ?UNB