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
Peace and security means being fearless and to have freedom of life, choice, voice”, said Smaranika Chakma, an indigenous youth activist from the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh. Smaranika was speaking at a virtual youth panel event to commemorate 20 years of the landmark UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women Peace and Security, jointly organized by UN Women Bangladesh, Centre for Peace and Justice (CPJ) of Brac University, and Naripokkho
Having to flee from armed conflict in Myanmar has changed my perspective on life. My father was in jail as a political prisoner when we fled, so I had to take a lot of responsibility for my family. These experiences first created a wound but are now giving me strength to work for my community and to help Rohingya women get a better life.
When I look around me, I see that women and girls are treated as less than men and are not given the same rights and opportunities. It’s a very traditional culture and we have endured conflict, violence and displacement. When girls and women are not treated as equals, there can be no real chance of achieving a strong and peaceful society. On a daily basis, girls here face many problems: child marriage, street harassment and sexual violence.
Begum (45) is a sex worker at Baniashanta brothel, in Dacoope, Khulna, a southern district of Bangladesh. Since Cyclone Amphan hit in May 20 amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, she has lost everything, but not hope. Cyclone Amphan and the pandemic have left us completely at the mercy of fate!
Female leaders have called for greater efforts to promote women on the front lines in responding to humanitarian crises in Bangladesh.
Mahmuda Sultana Shorna is the President of Women Peace Café (WPC) at Jatiya Kabi Kazi Nazrul Islam University (JKKNIU) in Mymensingh, Bangladesh. Since the COVID 19 pandemic hit Bangladesh, she has found innovative ways to keep spreading messages of peace while helping women in her community.
COVID19 has completely changed my life. After the university closed, all academic activities were suspended, and I was forced to return home. I live in a remote village in Bogura district and aside from worrying about my studies and the health risks posed by COVID19, I am also suffering from poor connectivity issues. However, I am trying to do my part during the crisis.
Bobita Rani Bormon, a single mother with two daughters lives in Savar, an area about 25 kilometers away from Dhaka city. She has been working for a readymade garment (RMG) factory, as a senior operator for six months and before that I worked with another RMG factory for two years.
Experts discussed about the Rapid Gender Analysis (RGA) findings which UN Women conducted recently with contributions from the GiHA member agencies- UNFPA, UNICEF, CARE, World Vision, Plan International, and the Resident Representative’s Office.
With 1 billion students and youth across the globe affected by school and university closures, there is increasing debate around ongoing disruption in education.
The Gender Monitoring Network calls on Policy Makers to recognize women human rights and integrate an intersectional gender equality approach in the COVID 19 Response to ensure everyone has access to necessary information and supports and resources.
The world in lockdown has created a ‘profound shock to our societies and economies, and women are at the heart of care and response efforts underway.