How many women are absolute poor in Bangladesh? How many women are physically or mentally tortured? Do women receive legal or mental counselling? Do women hold agricultural cards in Bangladesh? What are the impacts of Covid-19 on women? What is the level of their empowerment? What types of empowerment women enjoy in a patriarchal society? Do they get their just honour for household works, care, love and affection? Why is real empowerment of women necessary for building up a Decent Society? Solution of all these questions are analysed very critically and justifiably by eminent Economist Prof. Dr. Abul Barkat in his recently published book named “Boro Pordaye Somaj-Orthoniti-Rastro: Viruser Mohabiporjoy Thekey Shovon Bangladesher Shondhane (On the Larger Canvas of Society-Economy-State: In Search of a Transition from the Virus-Driven Great Disaster to a Decent Bangladesh).
Global statistics shows that in the developing world, women comprise half of the entire population and they are the poorest of the poor not merely in wealth but in every other index of development. In relation to 55 per cent women are directly or indirectly attached with agricultural activities around the world. Bangladesh also falls in the developing country category. Around half of the population in Bangladesh are women.Professor Abul Barkat estimates that 80 million women live in 45 million families. Now 38 million women are absolute poor in 15 million households; every year 2.3 million women suffer mental/physical torture and they need legal and health counselling. He also explains women’s contribution in the economy of Bangladesh, estimates time spent by both women and men on all types of daily activities, economic value of women's uncounted activities, and generates recommendations to clarify the woman’s status in the family and society. He also suggested that a “Decent Social System” is possible to build up by proper empowerment of women.
Professor Abul Barkat clarifies "Decent Social System" is based on a democratic state system, which puts loyalty to nature at the front position; all socio-economic and political foundations should be built on the basis of the influence of nature. There are three foundational component of this concept –
(i) Social foundational component is knowledge rich, free thinking and creativity promoting; solidarity rich; secular; free from all forms of superstitions; rational humans; human well-fairest science;
(ii) Economic foundational component includes people’s ownership on natural resources; social ownership on production; filthy rich less; share and market less system; and
(iii) Political foundational component includes democracy, a lord-less state system, social justice, community administration and people’s responsibility to protect the motherland.
The fundamental objectives of the theory of decent society are accelerating the process of human enlightenment, creativity promoting knowledge system, instilling high sense of solidarity, process of making human rationality rise up, making people free from all forms of inequality, free from rent-seeker, making a state for 100 per cent people’s ownership and master less civic governance.Abul Barkat presents eleven principles to renovate decent Bangladesh from Covid-19 impacts.
1. We want development-welfare-progression, but the development would be nature-environment oriented;
2. We need economic growth. We don’t need environmentally harmful, socially unjustified, human resources destructive to growth;
3. Growth should be inequality reduced;
4. Growth must be employment-creation oriented;
5. Per capita income or growth of domestic products is not development. It must ensure healthy life of women-children-old-marginally poor-deprived-isolated people;
6. We want to transform the power of youth to real resources;
7. We want positive social impact;
8. People’s ownership on natural resources (land, water body, forest, space resources, coal, gas and mineral) on behalf of nature;
9. We want to uphold human security and equal opportunity for development of state-society-economy;
10. Reducing inequality by promoting home grown development philosophy;
11. We want to extract the taste of global economic opportunities.
To make Bangladesh a decent one politically, socially and economically empowering of women is indispensable. Abul Barkat estimates, if a 10 year plus maid servant spends 16 thousands 641 crore working hours then the economic value would be 2 lakh 49 thousands 615 crore taka, it means 48 per cent of total GDP. He suggested eliminating all forms of discrimination and inequality against women in Bangladesh; crediting women entrepreneurs; removing all forms of violence against women; implementing national women for policy (2011); increasing budget for women in local government; working plan for indigenous women’s’ development; promoting gender equality based research; incentives for women in vocational and religious education; implementing policies for gender sensitive technology; promoting principles where women are affected by Covid-19.
Moreover, sustainable development goals (SDGs) include reducing inequality and ensuring decent jobs for all by 2030. So, we need proper strategies, financial support and public participation to achieve this goal. Abul Barkat recommends ensuring opportunities for a full life and full freedom that women should enjoy; inclusion of the excluded women groups; expanding choices to lead valuable lives; removal of all sources of curtailing of freedom; respecting constitutional and justified rights; eradicating poverty; breaking the deprivation trap; undertaking gender sensitive programs and projects to build up a decent Bangladesh.
Shishir Reza is an Environmental Analyst & Associate Member, Bangladesh Economic Association and Motiur Rahman is a Research Consultant, Human Development
Research Centre (HDRC), Dhaka