Bangladesh has achieved remarkable progress in recent years in terms of economic growth and empowering women, and integrating them as productive members of society. Female labor force participation has gradually increased; from 2021 to 2022, it jumped from 32.4% to 42.7%.
Recognizing women’s pivotal role in driving sustainable development, the country has implemented transformative initiatives to uplift women, promote gender equality, and harness their potential to boost the economy. The efforts made in Bangladesh serve as proof that investing in women can lead to significant socio-economic advancements.
Enhancing women’s and girls’ lives
The Bangladeshi government has enhanced the lives of girls and women in the last two decades, including reducing maternal mortality rates by more than two-thirds and increasing gender parity in school enrollment, said the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in a recent report.
According to a World Bank report, Bangladesh realized how important it is to invest in infrastructure and in people, particularly women, and therefore its poverty strategy focused on them.
“In 1991, Bangladesh had one of the lowest educational attainment levels for girls,” the WB report adds. “A pioneering school stipend program for poor rural girls made Bangladesh among the first few developing countries to achieve gender parity in secondary school enrollment.”
Presently, girls now represent more than 50% of lower secondary school enrollment. In 1970, it was only 17%. As Bangladesh’s garments industry rose to become number one worldwide, surpassing China, the sector created employment for hundreds of thousands of rural women. Female labor force participation rates have increased from 21% in 1990 to 42% in 2022.
Prioritizing gender equality
Bangladesh Minister for Women and Children Affairs Fazilatun Nessa Indira also recently noted that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has prioritized gender equality and empowerment for all women.
“As a proponent of the Digital Bangladesh campaign, the Prime Minister has prioritized Information and Communication Technology Training to achieve gender equality. She has pledged to increase women’s participation in ICT by 50% by 2041,” Nessa Indira added.
The government official for women noted that 80% of women entrepreneurs are operating in e‑commerce, over 10 million rural women have been empowered through ICT, and 50,000 women were provided computer training.
Hasina’s government has introduced gender-sensitive budgets for 40 ministries and established affirmative actions to increase women’s political and workforce leadership participation.
Women in leadership positions
In 2022, more than 300 female union, federation, and community leaders received training, 172 women assumed leadership positions in registered unions, and 21 women were elected to leadership positions in worker community associations, USAID reported. Statista revealed that in 2022, the proportion of parliamentary seats held by women stood at 21%.
The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) 2022 Global Gender Gap Report placed Bangladesh as the most gender-equal country in South Asia for the eighth consecutive year. However, on a global scale, Bangladesh ranks 71st among 146.
“Bangladesh is comparatively doing well in gender parity. It has been outperforming other South Asian countries for a long time,” said Fahmida Khatun, executive director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue, a WEF partner. “If we look at Bangladesh’s performance in the major indices, we’ll notice that the performance is satisfactory,”
The Ministry for Women and Children Affairs released a full report of the efforts made in favor of women and, therefore, gender equality, a program the government of Hasina kicked off in 2009.
In the 2021 fiscal year, the allocation for women’s development from the Gender-Responsive Budget was nearly $100 million or 27%.
The government of Bangladesh has allocated nearly $100 million a year for the development of women. Approximately 4 million women are employed in the Readymade Garments (RMG) sector, a vital contributor to the country’s economy. Bangladesh Bank provides collateral-free loans to support millions of women entrepreneurs
In health and education for women, the government has made significant strides. The enrollment ratio of girls in primary, secondary, and higher secondary levels reflects the increasing accessibility of education for women. The government provides over $90 million in stipends to support female students from Class IX to the degree level.
Maternal mortality rates have notably decreased, while antenatal care coverage has expanded to reach 31.2%. Community clinics are vital in providing comprehensive health, nutrition, and family planning services to approximately 32 million women.
Bangladesh has implemented various social security programs to uplift vulnerable women. Monthly allowances are provided to almost 13 million poor, widow, and distressed women. Child Day Care Centers and Working Women’s Hostels offer support to working women and ensure a safe living environment. These initiatives aim to address the specific needs and challenges faced by women in vulnerable situations, promoting their well-being and social empowerment.
Bangladesh’s impressive progress in women’s empowerment and gender equality is evidenced by its commitment to allocating substantial resources, advancing women’s political representation, enhancing administrative roles, fostering economic opportunities, promoting education and healthcare, and implementing comprehensive social empowerment programs.
Although certain barriers to eradicating inequality still remain, Bangladesh has positioned itself as a beacon of gender equality, inspiring other nations to strive for inclusivity and equity. With continued dedication, Bangladesh is poised to achieve even greater milestones in women’s empowerment and contribute to a more prosperous and equal society.