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 subject 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:
- Income security, decent work and economic autonomy for women
- Women live a life free of violence
- Governance, national planning and budgeting for gender equality
- Women and girls contribute to and benefit equally from sustainable peace and resilience, prevention of natural disasters and conflicts, and humanitarian action
News and Updates
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
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
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
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 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 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 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
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