Bangladesh has attained an envious success in women’s empowerment as they epitomise social awakening and self-reliance by ensuring their presence in almost all fields, including politics, administration and the media.
With an increasing rate in women literacy and zeal for climbing up, women are today showing signs of pathfinder -- from the grassroots to the centre -- thanks to the farsighted and dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2020, published by the World Economic Forum (WEF), Bangladesh has been ranked the top country among its South Asian neighbours by performing the best in bringing down gender gap.
Bangladesh closed 72.6 percent of its overall gender gap and obtained 50th position out of 153 countries globally, the WEF said in its report.
The prime minister has kept the pledges her party made in the 2018 election manifesto on gender equality.
Gender discrimination in every sector will be eradicated, the party said in its manifesto ahead of the December 30, 2018 general election.
According to Education Ministry statistics, at present the rate of female students at primary level is 99.4 percent. The government has arranged free primary education for all children.
Girls are able to study for free up to class XII in government institutions. Free textbooks are distributed among students up to the secondary level. Scholarships are given to girls to encourage them to go to school.
Institute of South Asian Women awarded Sheikh Hasina the Lifetime Contribution for Women Empowerment Award on International Women's Day in March last year.
She received the ‘South-South Award’ for her outstanding contribution to reducing infant and maternal mortality rates through the use of information technology in the health sector and the fight against hunger and poverty.
The prime minister has also received the Global Women's Leadership Award for her role in the development of women's education and entrepreneurship.
Former state minister for women and children affairs Meher Afroz Chumki said, "Women's empowerment means political, economic and social empowerment."
“Women of the country have come a long way in these three areas. The reserved seats in the National Assembly have been increased to 50. The number of women participating in the national elections without reserved seats is also increasing”, she added.
She also said, “Providing vocational education and free books has given a boost to women's education. Educated women are being empowered financially as they enter the job market. National women's policy, interest-free loans and job opportunities have increased the participation of women in the workplaces.”
Secretary of the Ministry of Food Moshammat Nazmanara Khanum said, ‘Women’s education has been taken forward by giving stipends to girls in schools and colleges. The provision of free books to the students at the beginning of the year has yielded a good result.”
“The participation of women in the administration and politics has increased significantly. Being financially empowered, mothers are playing an important role in preventing child marriage,” she said.
She further said, “Many MPs used to object to the appointment of women as upazila nirbahi officers. Now this position is considered based on the qualifications of the officers, not their genders.”
Farida Yasmin, the first woman general secretary elected for the second time in the 66-year history of the National Press Club, said, ‘The position of women in Bangladesh is visible from the grassroots to the centre.
She said the result of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's determination and efforts is being reflected nowadays.
“Breaking the shackles of masculinity, the women of Bangladesh are today established with their own qualities. The bold decision taken by the prime minister has helped women to move forward, “she added.
Farida went on saying, “Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman ensured equal rights for men and women in the constitution of the country. His worthy daughter Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has followed his footsteps. The women of Bangladesh get inspiration from the determination and courageous steps of the prime minister.”
Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Dhaka and former Information Commissioner Dr Sadeka Halim said, ‘Recognition of women is one of the achievements by including the names of father as well as mother in filling up the form.”
Acquiring citizenship on the basis of marrying a Bangladeshi woman is another important decision during the present government, she added.
“Providing scholarships to girls in educational institutions has encouraged parents in women's education. Laws regarding violence against women have been enacted to protect women. If a woman was raped, she had to go through a 'two finger test' first. Voices have been raised to abolish this disgraceful method and adopt another method to identify the culprit.”