Essay : The Role of Women in Family and Economy

Introduction : Women’s participation in the workplace, leadership role in the economical and social arenas and access to credit can be regarded as a great advancement of women in Bangladesh. Engagement of women in the society and economy is the reflection of gender equality which is the precursor to moving the country forward towards, middle-income status, towards inclusive and sustainable development. There is much for the world to learn from the experiences of Bangladesh. The ever-increasing contribution of women is clearly evident in every sphere of the society. The visible changes is women’s social and economic participation throughout the country testify the government commitment and to people’s aspiration to a more equitable society.

Bangladesh has already substantially achieved the MDGs as it has secured gender parity in primary and secondary education at the national level. This positive development has occurred due to specific government interventions focusing on girl students, such a stipends and exemption of tuition fees for girls in rural areas, and the stipend scheme for girls at the secondary level. Thus, the UNDP has commented that “Bangladesh has made significant progress in promotion the objectives of ensuring gender equality and empowerment of women”. Bangladesh outperformed its neighbors India and Pakistan in the Gender Inequality Index (GII), a composite index that measures the cost of gender inequality to human development.

Women in Economic Process : Bangladesh government dreams for a democratic and inclusive society of Bangladesh. With the aim of making reality Vision-2021, the government has been taken some amazing initiatives that definitely deserve appreciation, for the economic empowerment of rural women; collateral free micro-credit is given with 5% service charge. Women entrepreneurs receive 10% of the Small Enterprise Fund and 10% industrial plots. Currently more than 3 million women are working in the RGM sector alone.

Bangladesh has enhanced its women labour force from 245 in 2010 to about 40% in 2015. Like the year before, gender sensitive budgets were prepared for 40 ministries in the recently passed Budget 2016-17, and a special allocation of Tk. 21.51 billion was provided for development of women and children. Women’s participation in agricultural production is facilitated through access to agricultural technologies and loans given for agro-processing, homestead gardens, nurseries, bee-keeping and other activities. Marginal and landless farmers, of whom 50% are women, are being given support. Enhanced participation and livelihood of rural poor women is a priority programme of the government implemented through the “One House, One Farm Project”, which gives priority to female households in every village. While there is some debate over the efficacy of microfinance in poverty reduction, studies have shown that in Bangladesh, female participation in microfinance activities has led to an increased sense of empowerment, measured by factors such as decision-making, social acceptance and political involvement, which is turn have led to general welfare improvements. To encourage women entrepreneurship, a number of financial incentives are provided. Between 2010 and 2013, banks and non-bank financial institutions has disbursed Tk. 67 billion to 57,722 women entrepreneurs from their own sources. In 2010, 13,831 women entrepreneurs received Tk 20 billion as SME credit. This indicates that disbursement towards women entrepreneurs has been increasing both in amount and numbers. Women entrepreneurs can get advantage of re-financing both from ADB fund and Bangladesh Bank fund.

Women in Social Activities : In the social sphere, Bangladesh is a textbook example of what is possible when women are involved in decision-making. Indeed, it is a heartening story of social innovation and development, in no small part due to the help of microfinance, which has played an integral role in rural and social development in Bangladesh-92 percent of the borrowers are women and 90 percent live in rural areas. Bangladesh has the eighth lowest gender gap in political empowerment in the world. This is partially due to the fact that it has had a female head of state for longer than any other country in the world. In addition, the proportion of seats held by women in the national parliament doubled from 10 percent in 1990 to 20 percent in 2011. Women’s growing presence in the political sphere has had important implications on the family structure. Society is moving away from the traditional view that women are an economic liability and that sons are more desirable than daughters. Studies show that the growing independence of women is one of the major causes of a decline in the “missing women” phenomenon-gender based infanticide -in Bangladesh.

Take for example the fact that Bangladeshi mothers increasingly have a say on their children’s education. The country has managed to reduce the gender gap at all levels of education, particularly at lower levels of education, i.e. youth literacy and secondary school enrolments. In these two areas, disparities have been reduced at a faster rate in Bangladesh than the global average.

JOYEETA, an initiative of the Ministry of Women and Children affairs established to empowering rural women of Bangladesh. It’s a business platform to support and facilitate the grass root women entrepreneurs to showcase and market their own arts, crafts, products and services. To promote the products of women entrepreneurs for the first time an independent sales center was established at the Rapa Plaza of Dhaka under the programme of “Development Efforts of Women Entrepreneurship” of Department of Women Affairs. At present 180 enterpreneurs are being provided with 140 stalls. Disabled and oppressed women entrepreneurs are also provided with stalls. It is one of the most significant advancement of women in the societal arena.

Conclusion : Yet, Bangladeshi women continue of face numerous challenges. The recent industrial disasters in the RMG sector, where a large majority of workers are women, highlight the serious concerns about occupational safety and health. The Bangladeshi government, employers, workers and organizations are making important strides in the right direction, with the support of the ILO and many development partners, but still a lot needs to be done. Women also have been getting the short end of the stick in the labor market. The employment rate of women in 2010, at 58 percent, was close to 30 percentage points lower than the rate for men. Women are also disproportionately affected by unemployment, underemployment and vulnerable employment. Moving forward, it is important to put in place gender-responsive labor market policies that would pave the way for more equitable employment outcomes and decent work for women in society and economy and thus will be added to the inclusive development of the whole nation ultimately.
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