Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday warned world leaders that the Covid-19 is threatening to reverse the hard-earned achievements in women empowerment and urged them to do more to retain the successes.
The Prime Minister also urged them to renew commitments and enhance their efforts to ensure women’s equality, empowerment and advancement.
"We’ve much more to do. The Covid-19 pandemic has particularly aggravated the vulnerability of women. During this pandemic, women are facing discrimination and increased domestic violence, and, therefore, threatening to reverse our hard-earned achievements in women empowerment," she said.
The Prime Minister said this in her pre-recorded video message delivered at the High-Level Meeting on the 25th Anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women at the UN Headquarters.
She put light on three points for the world leaders to consider for working to build back better.
Firstly, Sheikh Hasina said, the world can benefit from every girl whose potential is realized, from every woman whose talent is tapped, and this can only be done through education.
Secondly, she said, empowerment comes with income and employment. “Therefore, engaging women in income-generating activities should be a priority.”
Thirdly, the Prime Minister said, the job of female workers, including migrant workers, across the global supply chains and other major employment sectors, must be protected in the context of COVID-19 so that they are not further marginalised and financially excluded.
Hasina said the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action charted a bold roadmap to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment. It has profoundly changed the outlook towards women and catalysed positive developments.
Since then, she mentioned that almost all countries formulated legislative frameworks for the promotion and protection of women and girls. The 2030 Agenda also recognised women’s centrality across all the goals and targets.
"As we enter the Decade of Action, we must renew our commitments and enhance our efforts to ensure women’s equality, empowerment and advancement," she said.
Talking about women empowerment in the country, the Prime Minister said Bangladesh has made tremendous development in women’s empowerment.
Immediately after the independence, she mentioned, Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman placed women at the heart of the country’s development agenda. Under his legendary statesmanship, the country crafted a progressive Constitution guaranteeing equal rights for men and women.
She said the country's development intervention, which is based on a whole-of-society approach, focuses more on the practical need of the womenfolk.
"That’s why we’ve made girl education a priority, economic and political empowerment of women a necessity. We see women as active agents of development, not as passive recipients," she said.
Hasina mentioned that Bangladesh formulated a progressive Women Development Policy in 2011. The reserved seats for women in the national parliament have risen to fifty.
Currently, the Leader of the House, Deputy Leader of the House, Leader of the Opposition and the Speaker of parliament are women. Thirty percent seats are earmarked for women in local government bodies. Special provisions have been made for enhancing women’s representation in the public service, the Prime Minister said.
“Women are now becoming higher court judges, public university VCs, secretaries of the government ministries and so on. Gender budgeting, micro-finance and similar initiatives have ensured women’s financial inclusion,” she said, adding: "Our investment in women is paying dividends with women thriving in every sector of our society."
At present, 20 million women are engaged in agriculture, industry, and service sectors. Over 3.5 million women are working in the ready-made garments sector, the largest export-earning sector, Hasina said.
“Nearly 1,500 women military and police officials served in UN peacekeeping operations so far. Our women are breaking barriers and succeeding in careers that our previous generation could never imagine," she said.
The Prime Minister said achievements in women empowerment have earned Bangladesh many global accolades. According to the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index, Bangladesh leads in South Asia on women’s overall empowerment, ranked 50th globally out of 149 countries, and 7th in political empowerment. "I would like to pledge to increase women’s participation in the workforce leading to 50-50 by 2041," she added.