Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday said that women must be in a leadership position to influence decisions to make positive impacts in the lives of other women.
"We need to elevate our narrative from participation to leadership... And the UN must lead by example. It is regrettable that no woman has so far been appointed as the UN Secretary General. Time has come; we will have one soon," she said.
She was addressing the Annual Meeting of the UNGA Platform of Women Leaders on the sidelines of the 78th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) session at the Delegation Dining Room in the UN Headquarters at New York.
"We must enhance our partnership base to make gender equality a norm across all sectors. The private sector needs to come forward to advance women's participation at a higher level. As leaders, we need to engage with them and encourage them to take bold initiatives in that regard," she said.
The Prime Minister said every country is different; they have different challenges and different social and cultural dynamics, adding that however, when all adopt the historic Agenda 2030, they should be committed to achieving gender equality.
"We cannot back out of that commitment under any circumstances. As women leaders, we have a responsibility to stand by all women and create examples that can guide others. We must leverage our position and power to achieve a gender-equal world," she opined.
Thematic Ambassador of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) Saima Wazed was present at the meeting.
At the outset, Sheikh Hasina thanked the PGA and the Executive Director of UN Women for convening the meeting.
Since its inception in 2021, she said, she has found this platform very useful, where "we share our experience and learn from each other how to tackle global challenges with local solutions."
"Our efforts to achieve peace, prosperity, progress, and sustainability would yield no result if half of the world's population were left behind. Gender equality is not an option rather an imperative to achieve a fair and just world," she said.
Sharing experiences of her own country, the Prime Minister said Bangladesh was born out of a devastating war that left the country with no resources, except for the people.
"So, we decided to make use of our entire human capital and include women as equal partners in our pursuit of a prosperous country. Guided by our constitutional commitment, we adopted the necessary laws and policies to ensure women's equal participation in all walks of national life," she said.
The premier said her government invested heavily in girls' education and women's economic empowerment.
She mentioned that girls' education has been made free up to the 12th grade alongside providing stipends and free books to students up to the secondary level.
The premier said they have ensured that 60 percent of the school teachers at the primary level are women while the country's ready-made garment industry employs over 4 million women.
"We have taken specific policy actions to encourage women's entrepreneurship and help them access financing. We have ensured concessional loans for women entrepreneurs," she said.
The Prime Minister said her government has established the Joyeeta Foundation to promote and support women in business initiatives and opened the doors for women in higher positions in government bodies.
Women are now becoming judges of the highest court, ambassadors, vice chancellors of public universities and getting higher positions in civil administration, the armed forces, law-enforcing agencies, and so on. On the political spectrum, women are represented at all levels, from the top to the lowest tier of the government, she continued.
She said they ensured women's and girls' access to ICT and digital platforms.
The premier went on saying that they have 12,292 union and municipal digital centres that were run by a woman and a man while the government is providing training to women to work as freelancers.
"Our target is to achieve gender parity in the ICT sector, including tech start-ups and the e-commerce sector. We are one of the first countries to introduce gender-responsive budgeting. Thirty percent of our budget is allocated for women's development activities," she said.
The Prime Minister said women in Bangladesh have also been an integral part of their continued efforts to achieve sustainability.
"Our gender-equal disaster response plan has earned us global recognition. Our investments in women's development have given us dividends. Today, women's contribution to GDP has reached 34 percent. Economic empowerment has also enabled women to play a greater role in decision-making, both in their families and in society," she said.