Bangladesh’s achievement of sustainable development goals (SDGs) largely depends on ensuring gender equality, said Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD).
The think tank said Bangladesh earned economic progress during the past 50 years due to increase in women participation in labour force.
“Women are adopting the leading role in taking care of environment to build a sustainable world and society. That’s why we’ve to empower women and give a level-playing field,” she added.
Dr. Fahmida Khatun was speaking at a CPD discussion styled as “Break the Bias for Gender Equality,” marking the International Women’s Day.
The theme of the day this year is “gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow.”
“If you’re biased against someone, then it creates discrimination. And where there is discrimination in the society, there is inequality in the society,” she said, adding: “We don’t want any unequal society and that society in the end is not sustainable again.”
CPD said Bangladesh in last five decades has progressed in all areas—economy society and political arena.
“However, the country is yet to achieve gender equality,” Dr. Fahmida Khatun said.
World Economic Forum Report 2021 says the gender equality is a far-fetched goal for the whole world today.
Given the present rate of progress, it will take another 135 years to achieve the gender equality, it said.
“So, we’ve to expedite the process. In order to expedite the process we’ve to work together. It is not only a journey of women but also a journey of men,” the CPD executive director said.
In order to achieve gender equality in society, CPD suggested keeping the gender focus at the centre of policies, be it legal, social or economic policies.
“It has to be at the centre point, it has to be at the mainstream, it has to be integrated so that we don’t think separately to ensure equal access to resources,” it stated.
Brac chairman and former caretaker government adviser Dr. Hossain Zillur Rahman acknowledged that one of the transformational achievements in 50 years of Bangladesh has been the emergence of women.
“Emergence of social and economic actors is one of the fundamental features of the last 50 years,” he said.
“Gender equality will be 100 percent only if there is equity in the society as a whole, which means democracy is central, democratic values are also central,” he said.
“It is a critical agenda. Anything away from democratic values, the bigger victim is always women, more than men actually,” he pointed out.
At the same time, Dr. Rahman also called for humanising and genderising the discourse of power as it creates “toxic masculinity,” which, he said, is a critical problem that creates the sense of insecurity among women.
While talking about breaking the bias, he said there is a cost of being courageous and the society lacks the support structure or institutional security for the backlash of breaking the bias.
“Actually, there is a huge gap. It is not just enough to open up the windows for those who want to break the barriers. Support is also a value chain,” Brac chairman said.
CPD trustee Prof. Rounaq Jahan observed that Bangladesh has been celebrating the International Women’s Day in a more festive mood in recent years compared to that of the western world.
She said the idea of gender equality has not come from the western world but from within this society as gender equality has been in this society for more than a century.
Noted businessman Nasim Manzoor pointed at the low number of women in executive positions.
“Only 4 percent of women are CEOs, which shows problem in gender equality,” Manzoor said.
He called for ensuring gender equality in salary and wages.
Discussants urged the authorities to bring about changes to existing laws that deal with inheritance, marriage and rape.
They said the steps will help to ensure gender equality in the society.
According to them, the women’s more access to mid-tier level jobs will create leadership culture among them and ensure more empowerment.