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
In recent months, South Asia has had some of the highest numbers of COVID-19 cases globally, driven predominantly by the second wave of the pandemic in India and Nepal. Since January 2020, India has reported over 30 million cases and more than 400,000 fatalities, figures that are likely substantially underestimated. Cases in Nepal rapidly spiked in mid-April 2021, with over 635,000 confirmed cases by the end of June and at least 9,000 deaths. Both countries have seen critical gaps in life-saving vaccines, treatment and tests, and in skilled human resources.
Gaiotree Roy lives in Joldhaka, Rangpur in northern Bangladesh. She is currently studying Master of Arts in Philosophy. She is a karate trainer and steps away from achieving a black belt, the last stage of mastery in karate. She actively contributes to preventing gender-based violence and child marriage in her community.
Saraban Tahura Zaman is a feminist, human rights activist, and a lawyer. She is a core committee member of SheDecides Bangladesh. She is acting as the National Coordinator for the Right Here Right Now Bangladesh Platform and advocates for the rights of the youth and sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Amena Begam is currently one of the most senior female officials in the Bangladesh Police. Having served as a UN Peacekeeper in East Timor, and currently the Deputy Inspector General of Bangladesh Police and the president of the Bangladesh Police Women Network, she is determined to protect the most vulnerable and to strengthen women’s role in law enforcement.
Women’s meaningful participation is essential to building peaceful societies, voiced speakers at an event titled “Championing Women’s Role: Achievements and Way Forward” jointly organized by Ministry of Foreign Affairs and UN Women in Bangladesh to commemorate 20 years of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) on Women Peace and Security (WPS).