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Ahammad Parvej Khan
Massive initiatives taken by the government to empower women financially, socially and politically have contributed significantly to fostering economic growth as well as overall social development of the country.
Sources said the initiatives, like special allocation for women in the national budget, women entrepreneurship programmes by Bangladesh Bank, SME foundations and some banks and so on, have created huge opportunities for women in political fields, administration and other areas.
State Minister for the Ministry of Public Administration (MoPA) Ismat Ara Sadique told Bangladesh Post that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s vision is to empowering women from the grassroots level, and to that end the government has been running various programmes like training women on vegetable farming, stitching etc, in the rural areas. After providing adequate training for them, the government also ensures credit facilities so that they can create their own sources of earning through various projects, like ‘Ekti Bari Ekti Khamar’ (EBEK) which was mainly chalked out to make a large number of rural women self-reliant, the state minister said.
She said, “In my constituency Jessore-5, there are a total of 171 samitees under the EBEK project, and a large number of members of the ‘Palli Sanchay Bank’ are doing savings regularly,” she said, adding that the poor and marginal women are getting 6 kilogramme (kg) rice by using cards distributed through NGOs.
Ismat Ara hoped that if Awami League can form the government in the 11th general election, most of the women will come out as independent through different initiatives of the government in the next 5 years.
Sources said nominating a female speaker in the Parliament over the last two consecutive terms has been the most remarkable development in women empowerment for the first time in Bangladesh’s history.
Besides, currently the parliament leader, deputy leader and opposition leader all are females while 5 female ministers are there in the cabinet including Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
In the current parliament, there are a total of 71 female members of parliament (MP), including 50 reserved seats and 21 elected members, while there are 13,620 elected women representatives in 4,540 unions across the country, including 3 reserved seats for women and 1 female vice chairman in each union. President of Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce and Industries (BWCCI) Selima Ahmad told Bangladesh Post that the biggest initiative of the government is the allocation by Bangladesh Bank, from where women entrepreneurs can take collateral free loan up to Tk 25 lakh at the least rate of interest.
“But the matter of fact is that most of the grassroots level women are yet to avail of this opportunity, so huge works remain to do for making it easier and simpler for them,” she observed.
“Besides, the government has been imparting training to women workers through its SEIP programme from which at least 1,000 women get training opportunity in different fields, which is also a big support for empowering women”, Mrs Ahmad said.
Selima Ahmad praised the government’s decision of allocating a package fund of Tk 100 crore in the national budget but at the same time expressed her concern that the entire fund will be hard to spend every year due to bureaucratic complications.
Mrs Ahmad also felt that apart from economic empowerment, issues like social security and women friendly mass transport should be addressed with due importance for the overall women development.
The women and children affairs ministry imparts training totally free of charges in 18 different trades under its “Income Generating Program” so that country’s 2 crore women may earn staying at their own homes. The women, participating in the training programme are also paid with conveyance.
Another scheme named “Maternal Health Voucher Scheme” is being run with special initiative of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina through which safe pregnancy, safe delivery and post-delivery services to mothers have been ensured.
Currently, 80 per cent of the total micro credit holders in the country are women. The interest rate for women entrepreneurs in the cottage, micro and small industries sector has been set at 9 per cent aiming at encouraging more women entrepreneurship at the grassroots level.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has declared a 4-point programme for overall women empowerment and ensuring their participation in income generation in families and building policymaking capacity in families, society and state.
The PM’s programme includes considering women in all aspects of social, economical and political fields and showing respect to them by changing male-dominated mindset, ensuring rights of women who are being victims to anarchy, are working with less remuneration and suffering starvation.
The ‘Global Gender Gap Report-2015’ suggests that Bangladesh stands 6th in the world in terms of political empowerment of women and occupies 72nd position among 144 countries in women empowerment in all respects, which indicate Bangladesh’s position better than any other country in Asia.
The government has introduced favourable programmes for higher education of women. At present, female students have outnumbered male students in higher secondary level due to introduction of free education for girl students up to class 12.
There are education allowances for girl students in the marginal level and rural areas of the country, and also arrangements are there for merit stipends for the girls.
Meanwhile, the government has also created a provision of employing at least 60 per cent of female teachers in government primary schools of the country.