Gender equality is a key factor for sustainable and equitable development. Actually, not only for ensuring sustainable development but also a lot of problem of the society can be solved with the end of the gender discrimination. The women empowerment matters much for the development of a country. It helps to ensure justice, poverty eradication, economic growth as well as a well balanced society. According to the Amartya Sen’s capability approach, development is primarily related to individuals’ empowerment, both men and women. But all of these issues, gender equality and women empowerment are highly connected with the dignities of the women. Dignity is one of the most essential things to the human spirit. Only with dignity can a person be able to lead a happy life, and maybe even making a difference in the world. The UN noted that, “achieving gender equality and realizing the human rights, dignity and capabilities of diverse groups of women are a central requirement of a just and sustainable world.”
Now the question is who is responsible for giving human dignities to all women of the country. In this 2021, after so much progress in women’s education rate, health care services and women's empowerment, why are women's work and identity stuck in narrow boundaries? What is the identity of a woman who does not play a direct role in earning money, but does housework, child rearing and entertains her family members and husband? Are not all these household chores done by women any kind of the work at all? Then it can be said that since men are earning, all the activities of the men are ‘work’. On the other hand, since women are not earning, there is no value of women's hard work. That is what is very much prevalent in our society.However, in 2018, a study by CPD, a well-known research institute in the country, revealed that women work three times more than men, which means 78.8 per cent of the total GDP in 2017. Despite working three times as much as men, most women who are not directly involved in earning money are told ‘not do anything’. Now we are very much concerned about inclusive development, but my question is how can we think about inclusiveness or equity without providing women and men the same opportunities and dignities? In a recent case in China, it was decided to give money to a wife for her household activities as a condition of divorce. This verdict has been widely responded to in Bangladesh as well as in other Asian countries. China's new law has made options towards the people to rethink about this issue.
That was the story of a woman who does not earn money directly. On the other hand, there are only 36.42 per cent women who earn money directly or actively participating in the labour force. But among them what percentage of the women who do not have to get exhausted and tired of doing various household works? And in this way women are being hindered in their creative work. So do we still believe in the discriminatory attitude of the patriarchal society? We often talk about women’s freedom; but do we really believe in giving their freedom, right and dignities what they deserve? Amartya Sen state that “freedom is at the core of the development process”, and further, he argued that “development was a process of expanding the real freedoms that people enjoy.”
If the women of a society are backward, the society can never move forward. Therefore, equal rights of every person in the society must be ensured for the sake of the sustainable and equitable growth of the society. Perfection will come to the society only if one is paid as much as one deserves. The role of the state in developing women's dignities is undeniable. So, the government should not only think about the progress of women's education but also needs to think about how the benefits of women's education should be extended to the needs of the society. To expand the range of the women’s area, the government can ensure various developmental activities to reduce the workload of women and to develop women's creativity such as setting up adequate day-care centres, setting up government cafeterias for cheap, good quality and safe food at subsidised rate and various household chores such as laundry services etc. can be made cheaply and easily available. In addition, there is a need to ensure equal access to equal opportunities both for men and women in various state agencies. Moreover, for establishing sustainable people-centred development within a country, there is a need to have fair representation of women across different levels of decision-making.
However, to solve these problems the role of only the state is not enough, nor can it be solved by introducing some specific laws. Every citizen of the society has the responsibility to create opportunities for women. Family education, institutional education and the practice of ethics, above all, the pursuit of the development of human values is no less important in this case.
In conclusion, towards ensuring an inclusive society there is no alternative to providing equal human dignity to both men and women. We hope that concerted efforts of all and a change in attitude can give us a society where all of the people will be able to enjoy human dignity.
The writer is an Assistant Professor, Dhaka School of Economics, University of the Dhaka