UN Women – United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women

UN Women – United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women

Asia and the Pacific

UN Women Bangladesh

Established as a secular people’s republic in 1971, Bangladesh is the most densely populated country in the world with a population of approximately 160 million. Bangladesh acceded to CEDAW in 1984 and continues to maintain reservations to Articles 2 and 16(1c). The Constitution recognizes equal rights for women and men in the public sphere and there is a reasonably strong legal and policy framework guaranteeing women’s rights. The National Women's Development Policy 2011 and its National Action Plan provide a base for government action to promote gender equality, and the 7th 5-year plan integrates gender equality issues across a number of sectors with some new sectoral policies addressing gender issues effectively. Currently, gender responsive budgeting is institutionalized across 43 ministries.

The country is internationally recognized for its good progress on a number of gender indicators. These include gender parity in primary and secondary education and maternal mortality that has declined by 66 per cent over last few decades, estimated at a rate of 5.5 per cent every year1. Bangladesh ranks highest in the Gender Gap Index in South Asia achieving 47th among 144 countries in the world2. However, significant gaps remain. The rates of violence against women remain high. Almost two out of three (72.6 per cent) ever-married women in Bangladesh have experienced some form of partner violence in their lifetime, and more than half (54.7 per cent) have experienced it in the last 12 months3. Women are also discriminated against in family life. In Bangladesh, marriage, divorce, custody of children, maintenance and inheritance are subjectevaw-global-database to religious law and these ‘personal laws’ often discriminate against women.

In July 2015, Bangladesh crossed the threshold to lower middle-income country (MIC). In March 2018, the country was recommended for LDC graduation, and is working towards officially graduating from LDC status by 2024. Much of this growth has been driven by a rapidly expanding industrial sector, in particular ready-made garments (RMG) which accounts for more than 80 per centof Bangladesh’s exports. Macroeconomic priorities of the government include increasing domestic revenue (Bangladesh has the lowest tax/GDP ratio in the world at about eight per cent), expanding and diversifying trade (FDI/GDP is less than one per cent), strengthening infrastructure and energy provision, and developing a more skilled workforce4. According to Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, the labour force participation rate in 2015-2016 was 81.9 per cent for males and 35.6 per cent for females. Of these, 95.4 per cent females and 82.3 per cent male are in informal employment as wage labourers, self-employed persons, unpaid family labour, piece-rate workers, and other hired labour.

Bangladesh has a significant history of women organizing movements to claim their rights. Over the years, women’s groups have mobilized themselves and made sure their voices are heard in various issues, starting from violence against women, gender equality in securing economic opportunities and participation, equal representation in politics, reproductive rights, family law reforms and gender mainstreaming in public policies.

Against this backdrop, UN Women in Bangladesh’s is working with its government and civil society partners in the following areas:

News and Updates

Photo: UN Women/Ashrafuzzaman Imran and Rashedul Islam

Sushi rolls, not gender roles

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

A one-of-a-kind “Gender Fair” was organized by Independent University Bangladesh faculty and students with the support of UN Women. Students creatively designed stalls with gender-friendly themes, such as “bin a stereotype”. One focused on self-defense for women, while another sold cookies and cupcakes decorated with gender-friendly messages, such as “Sushi rolls, not gender roles”... more

Photo: UN Women

Students confront sexual harassment on-campus in Bangladesh

Monday, October 1, 2018

Faced with high rates of sexual harassment, students and teachers at four universities in Bangladesh are raising awareness and thinking creatively to find solutions. “Many times, students are victims of sexual harassment, but they do not feel comfortable sharing their experiences with anyone, not even in the university complaint box,” says Koyes Miah, student campaign leader at the Sylhet University... more

I'm a Dalit, I'm untouchable

TAKE FIVE: Beena Pallical

Monday, July 9, 2018

Beena Pallical is the Executive Director at the Asia Dalit Rights Forum and the current Manager of a programme seeking to strengthen Dalit Women’s Economic Rights across South Asia . The Dalit community in this region is still considered the lowest of the historical castes and suffers widespread discrimination, despite recent legislation and initiatives. Within the community, the specific problem of women’s economic empowerment has received little attention, but is now the focus... more

Papiya Parvin poses with her cow, purchased with a small loan as part of UN Women’s Empowered Women, Peaceful Communities programme. Photo: UN Women/Snigdha Zaman

From where I stand: “If women are empowered, we can create more peaceful societies”

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Our society is mostly dominated by men, and most of us think that only men have the right to earn money and support their families. It’s difficult for women to get access to the market. I wanted to break this stereotype, and that’s why I started my own business. For me, it all started with receiving... more

Photo: UN Women/Sakun Gajurel

Empowering Rohingya women and girls through art

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

To commemorate World Refugee Day, UN Women hosted “Awareness through Art” workshop at Balukhali, Camp-18 for women and girl refugees to enjoy their right to a life of dignity. The event, held at UN Women’s Women’s Centre, incorporated art and awareness on gender equality in an interactive style so that Rohingya women and girls could express their ideas about what it means to be a woman... more

Noor Nahar. Photo: UN Women/Allison Joyce

From where I stand: “Women need support from each other to cope with this crisis”

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

I came to Bangladesh many years ago. I was only seven years old and all I remember is crossing the river on a boat. My mother said that the Myanmar military had killed my nine-year-old brother, so we had to leave our home. I used to think that one day Myanmar will take us back and the violence will stop. But I don’t see any improvement of the situation in Myanmar. The military torture is worse and the number of Rohingyas fleeing is much... more

sabrina asad

From where I stand: “I have a strong role to play as a UN Peacekeeper from Bangladesh, I need to make my nation proud.”

Monday, May 28, 2018

Sabrina Asad Hima was amongst the first batch of women who were sent from Bangladesh as UN Peacekeepers. Sabrina was commissioned to Côte d’Ivoire in 2012... more

maj ishrat

From where I stand: “You are a woman, how are you going to handle such a difficult situation by yourself?

Monday, May 28, 2018

Maj. Ishrat Maria Mitu was one of the first women from Bangladesh commissioned as a UN Peacekeeper. She served in the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) for a year in 2009... more

Minara Begum. Photo: UN Women/Allison Joyce

From where I stand: “I am worried about the monsoon… will our small shelter keep standing?”

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Minara Begum is among the thousands of Rohingya women who fled the violence unleashed by the Myanmar army in her village, Buchidong, Myanmar. Having learned new skills in a UN Women-supported Multi-Purpose Women’s Centre in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, she is speaking out, meeting decision-makers in the camp and helping other Rohingya women. Minara Begum. Photo: UN Women/Allison Joyce In Myanmar, we had a big wooden house. We had cows, goats, chicken and lots of... more

"He For She" pins are seen In Balukhali Rohingya Refugee camp February 1, 2018 in Chittagong district, Bangladesh. Photo: UN Women/Allison Joyce

CiCs for HeForShe: The community leaders championing gender equality in the Rohingya refugee camps

Monday, April 9, 2018

The women among the Rohingya refugees have fled gender-based violence, and continue to endure widespread discrimination in the camps in eastern Bangladesh. But some community leaders are speaking out for gender equality, and challenging widespread practices regarding the treatment and roles of women. When he saw Rohingya refugee women struggling to collect their families' fuel rations, on top of their other charges, Camp-in-Charge (CiC)... more

Featured Publication
Rohingya Crisis Response: Bolstering Learning, Livelihoods, and Community

Empowering Rohingya women - UN Women update (December 2018)

Rohingya Crisis Response: Bolstering Learning, Livelihoods, and Community UN Women continues to galvanize Rohingya refugee women’s self-discovery, empowerment and leadership. The launch of the new, much larger Multi-purpose Women’s Center (MPWC) in Cox’s Bazar provides a safe, communal space away from the chaos of camp life with an assortment of training and learning opportunities... Read more

Featured Publication

Orange the word: #HearMeToo | Updates

16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence in Bangladesh. Starting on 25th November, the 16 Days brought together government representatives, communities, survivors, activists and the public to raise awareness on the urgent need to end violence against women and girls, in Dhaka, across the country and in the Rohingya Refugee Camps. We have underlined the force of the mobilization that has taken hold in this report, but the need is to propel... Read more

Planet 50–50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality