As Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina accepts yet another international award for role in empowering women in Bangladesh, this time the Global Women’s Leadership Award at the Global Summit of Women in Sydney, we look at some of the steps and efforts undertaken by her Government in ensuring gender equality and women empowerment.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Quotes
“Women empowerment is a must for successful achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as women are the most important drivers of transformation,” – while addressing a Roundtable of UN Secretary General’s High-Level Panel (HLP) on Women’s Economic Empowerment
“Let us, once again, take a vow to achieve gender parity in all aspects and make the world a better place for our women and girls.” – during a meeting on ‘Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: A Commitment to Action’
Bangladesh has achieved remarkable success in advancing women under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina; the country is regarded as an example for the empowerment of women in the world. She has long recognized that the future of her nation depends largely on the empowerment of women. One of her prime objectives is women’s overall development by ensuring their equal and active participation in the mainstream socio-economic and political activities. Her government has initiated necessary policy directives, numerous programs and projects for the development of women.
Bangladesh has improved gender parity across all parts of society. The World Economic Forum recently ranked Bangladesh first in gender equality among South-Asian nations for the second consecutive year. Bangladesh has had a steady climb in the ‘Gender Gap Index of 2017, rising to No. 47 in the world.
In the past decade (2009-18) under Sheikh Hasina’s leadership, Bangladesh has gained unprecedented success in girl’s education. In that period, coverage of stipend program for girls has been extended manifold and this strategy resulted in almost 100 percent enrollment rate and gender parity. Education of girls up to degree level in public schools is also free. Gender parity is achieved in primary and secondary education.
– Girls enrollment rate at the primary schools is 99.4 percent
– 2.7 million girls receiving stipend at the secondary and higher secondary level
– 51 and 53 percent of students are female in primary and secondary schools
– Bangladesh on the verge of achieving gender parity in tertiary education
– Female are encouraged to take teaching as profession and currently 60 percent primary school teachers are women
Improved healthcare and social protection
Sheikh Hasina-led government has taken some effective measures to strengthen health service delivery for women. Bangladesh has also markedly improved maternal health. Significant progress has been made in reducing maternal mortality ratio from 319 (per 100,000 live births) in 2005 to 176 in 2015. During her first tenure at the office, she introduced Maternal Health Voucher Scheme. Currently .15 million women are receiving support under this scheme. Her government has extended social safety net to bring disadvantaged women under health coverage. Due to some effective legislative measures, women now get six months of paid maternity leave.
Rural, marginal and vulnerable women now get primary healthcare services at the 16,000 Community clinics. The concept of Community Clinic is the brain child of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The construction of CC establishment started in 1998. At the beginning of her second tenure in 2009, her government initiated a project with the title of ‘Revitalization of Community Health Care Initiatives in Bangladesh (RCHCIB)’ to further develop the Community Clinics (CCs) and strengthen their operations in delivering primary health care. Moreover, another 13000 maternity centers are established across the country now providing maternal services.
World Health Organization (WHO) have listed Bangladesh as one of the ten “fast-track” countries that have made significant achievements in improving maternal and child health. Again WHO has recognized the country for successfully eliminating Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus (MNT).
– 16,000 community clinics (CC) established
– On average 10 million visits in CCs per month
– Among the service seekers about 80% are women and children
– 13000 maternity centers established
– 150 thousand women receiving support under Maternal Health Voucher Scheme
– 500 thousand poor pregnant women receiving maternity allowance
– 200 thousand working lactating mother receiving allowance
– maternal mortality ratio per 100,000 live births reduced from 319 in 2005 to 176 in 2015
Participation in economic activities
Women’s economic participation is regarded by PM Sheikh Hasina as the fundamental to strengthening their rights and enabling them to have control over their lives. She has been encouraging female participation in the workforce, bringing millions of women into the labour force and increasing women’s participation leading to increased productivity and economic growth.
Currently over 3 million women are working in the Ready-made Garment sector (RMG). Working conditions in the garment industry have significantly improved, thanks to widespread and stringent measures taken by her government. Banks and non-bank institutions are offering easy-loan to women entrepreneurs. Women are now entitled to get loan at discounted rate of 10 percent interest and 15 percent refinance fund is reserved for them.
Women’s participation in agricultural production is promoted through access to agricultural technologies and loans given for agro-processing, homestead gardening, nurseries, bee-keeping and other activities. Forty-three percent of rural women now contribute to fisheries-related activities. And women now make up more than 60 percent of the fish farmers in Bangladesh.
– Labour force participation rate of women was 35.6 percent in 2016 which was higher than the South Asian average of 35 percent
– Over 3 million women are working in the Ready-made Garment sector
– Women make up more than 60 percent of the fish farmers
– Women are entitled to get loan at discounted rate of 10 percent interest
Political empowerment: women participation in elected bodies
PM Sheikh Hasina received loud appreciation in home and abroad for astonishing success in promoting women in the political field. In 2011, her government Increased the number of women reserve seats to 50 from 45. Current Bangladesh parliament has 70 women members, which is 20 percent of the total 350 seats. Women member was 12.7 percent in 1990. Bangladesh is the only country in South Asia which has a woman prime minister and leader of the House, woman leader of the opposition, woman speaker and deputy leader of the house.
Bangladesh won Women in Parliament (WIP) Award for regional leadership in the South and Southeast Asia category for closing gap in politics.
The Local Government Second Amendment Act 1997 passed by PM Hasina-led government is seen as a milestone towards ensuring women’s equal access and increased participation in local level governance. This amendment provided direct elections to reserved seats for women in local level elections. Her government has introduced a post of female vice-chairman for each Upazila (sud-division) bringing an amendment to Upazila Parisad Act.
– Women hold 50 reserve seats in Bangladesh National Parliament
– Current parliament has 70 women members which is 20 percent of total seat
– 13,500 elected female members are working in different tires of local government
Women in civil administration
During her two successive tenure (2009-18), increased participation of women is visible and they are playing key roles in different tires of the civil administration. About 1,100 women are now working in the civil service. Women are playing the role District Commissioner (DC) in 6 districts out of total 64. Among 206 Additional District Commissioners (ADCs), 16 are women. One hundred and six women hold the post of Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) at the sub-district level administrative unit out of total 491 units. Currently 10 women are acting as Secretary at different ministries which is 13 percent of total number of secretaries. Number of women employees in government jobs increased to 378,354 in 2015 from 227,114 in 2009.
– About 1,100 women are now working in the civil service
– Women are playing the role of District Commissioner (DC) in 6 districts out of total 64
– Among 206 Additional District Commissioners (ADCs), 16 are women
– 106 women acting as Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) at the sub-district level administrative unit out of total 491 units
– Women employees in government jobs increased to 378,354 in 2015 from 227,114 in 2009
Women participation in armed forces
In 2000, the doors opened for women entry as regular commissioned officers in the Armed Forces with a special instruction of the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. A good number of female officers of Bangladesh Army are now serving in different service units. Hundreds of female officers of Bangladesh Air force are working in meteorology, air traffic control, admin, legal, supply, finance, engineering and education branch. Besides, a good number of female officers are serving in supply, engineering, electrical and education branch of Bangladesh Navy.
Special measures to guarantee rights to women and prevent violence against women
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her government have been strengthening the country’s policies and legislative framework to ensure women’s rights and combat violence against women.
Sheikh Hasina’s government adopted the National Women Development Policy 2011 to promote women’s right. Under the policy, women have greater rights to employment, inheritance and education. Refuting all the objections raised by political oppositions and conservative forces, PM Hasina has repeatedly said that the new legislation is not against Islamic doctrines and that she is committed to promoting women development. Ministry of Women and Child Affairs has formulated a national work plan for implementing the policy.
Her government first initiated the concept of gender responsive budget in the 2009-10 fiscal year. Twenty ministries adopted gender responsive budget in the 2011-12.
Her government passed the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act 2010, which was the first recognition of the problem of domestic violence in Bangladesh by the State. Later in 2013, The Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Rules was passed for ensuring proper implementation of the act.
Child Marriage Control Act, 2013, the latest amendment to this act has been approved by her Cabinet which provides for strict punishments for marriage of girls below the age of 18.
Her government has also enacted the Human Trafficking Deterrence and Suppression Act 2012. This Act complying with the International standards stressed on the protection of the rights of the victims of human trafficking and ensuring safe migration.
A National Helpline Center for violence against children and women has been established to provide support to any women and their families who are in need of prompt support and information can get necessary information by calling the 24-hour Helpline Number 10921.
One Stop Crisis Centre operates in 6 divisions to give medical, legal and police assistance to women victims of violence. There is also a Trauma Counseling Centre.
– Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act 2010
– National Women Development Policy 2011
– Human Trafficking Deterrence and Suppression Act 2012
– Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Rules 2013
– Child Marriage Control Act, 2013
– Since 2011-12, twenty (20) ministries adopted gender responsive budget
– 24-hour support provided to women from National Helpline Center
– One Stop Crisis Centre operates in 6 divisions to give medical, legal and police assistance to women
Sheikh Hasina as a global leader
VO: HPM Sheikh Hasina has been an active proponent of women empowerment in the global platforms. PM Sheikh Hasina addressed the opening ceremony of the ‘Global Women Leaders Forum’ at Sofia, Bulgaria. There, she urged global leader to join hands to create a safer environment for women and girls alongside empowering them as agents of social transformation. On the sidelines of the 71 United Nations General assembly (UNGA) meeting, Sheikh Hasina came up with the idea of ‘Making every women and girl count’ her very own thought on women empowerment and gender equality issue. She urged all to create more space for women in all sectors of the society. She expressed her firm belief that there will be no room for violent extremism in those societies that create room for women’s participation and empowerment.
VO: In April 2016, She along with nine other heads of state as well as two special advisors, was appointed a member of UN High-level Panel on Water. On the sidelines of the UNGA, she addressed the panel and called for a global effort to ensure integrated management of river basins, access to water-intensive technologies to effectively address water related challenges.
PM Sheikh Hasina has played an important part in formulating SDGs in drawing up the broader and more detailed goals to guide global development for the next 15 years.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s role in dealing with climate change
HPM Sheikh Hasina is one of the most proactive leaders in the fields of disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate adaptation, as well as a leading voice in climate negotiations. Bangladesh, under his leadership, has played an essential role in issues such as climate migration and loss at each of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of Parties. Her commitment to combating climate change led to Bangladesh signing the historic Paris Climate Agreement in April 2016.
In 2015, Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina received the United Nations Champion of the Earth award for her “outstanding leadership on the frontline of climate change”.
– Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina led Climate Vulnerable Forum
– She had led Climate Vulnerable Forum which now consists of 48 countries.
– She is also a member of UN high-level panel on water.
Sheikh Hasina’s success in regional diplomacy
Response to Rohingya crisis since August 2017
Sheikh Hasina-led government approached the situation of Rohingya refugee in flux on humanitarian ground. The premier visited the Kutupalong Camps in September 2017, she pledged to shelter, feed and provide medical treatment for the Rohingya refugees until the ongoing issues were resolved.
Her government, in the process of seeking a long term solution, has taken a number of diplomatic initiatives. Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed on a plan in January to repatriate the refugees. Meanwhile Bangladesh continues to stand beside the Rohingyas, providing food, shelter, medical treatment. Over 700,000 Rohingya people took shelter in Bangladesh escaping genocide since the end of August 2017. Bangladesh now hosting a population of more than 1.1 million Rohingyas.
Land boundary agreement with India, June 2015
Due to her prudence and instigation, a historic agreement to simplify border by exchanging 162 enclaves of land have been signed between Bangladesh and India. Under the agreement, both sides swapped the enclaves enabling their citizens to finally reside in their own countries. The agreement is touted as a historic milestone in the relationship between the two neighbouring countries.
Maritime boundary dispute settlement with Myanmar and India
Bangladesh, under her leadership, successfully resolved maritime dispute with Myanmar and India. The country pursued a peaceful solution in the international court. On 14 March 2012, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea gave verdict awarding Bangladesh 111,000 square kilometres of exclusive economic zone waters in the Bay of Bengal. A U.N. tribunal has awarded Bangladesh nearly four-fifths of an area sprawling over 25,000 square kilometres km in the Bay of Bengal, ending a dispute over a sea border with India. Both the countries accepted the verdict as the victory of friendship and a win-win situation for the people of the two country.
Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Peace Accord 1997
Sheikh Hasina’s strong political will led to the signing of the historic Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord. Hasina government succeeded in striking the deal after holding series of meetings with organisations of indigenous communities of the CHT. This put an end to more than two decades of conflict and violence. It was lauded by the international community and Sheikh Hasina was honored with the UNESCO Peace Prize in 1998.
Global Award/recognition for Women Empowerment
In September 2016, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was conferred with the Planet 50-50 Champion by UN-Women and Agent of Change Award by Global Partnership Forum for her outstanding contributions to women empowerment.
In 2014, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was awarded with a special Tree of Peace by UNESCO for being a strong advocate on world stage in girls and women education. She was also recognized for jointly launching the Global Partnership for Girls and Women Education and leading the country to become a champion country of “Global Education First Initiative”.
– Mother Teresa Award in recognition of her contributions to women’s education.
– United Nations Champion of the Earth award
– Planet 50-50 Champion by UN-Women
– Agent of Change Award by Global Partnership Forum
– Tree of Peace by UNESCO
– Mother Teresa Award