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
Farida Easmin began her journey of coping and overcoming when she was 16 and her father died suddenly. As the eldest daughter, she had to take care of the others, and she worked in small non-governmental organizations while continuing her studies. “I still remember I used to earn only 1,350 taka per month (about USD15.5 now) and I used that money for expenses for my siblings and family,” she said.
Today is International Women’s Day, a day to take stock of the progress made on women’s rights and empowerment. This year is pivotal for advancing gender equality worldwide as it marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action and other key moments in the feminist movement. Around the world and through the decades, feminists and women’s rights advocates have contributed to the global struggle for gender equality, regardless of their age, country, religion, ethnicity, race, background or gender.
Bangladesh has launched a four-year action plan on women, peace and security, to transpose at national level a series of resolutions by the UN Security Council. The National Action Plan (NAP) will expand women’s roles in peacekeeping, peacebuilding, disaster management, and preventing violent extremism. This will build on Bangladesh’s efforts to establish peace and security within and beyond its borders.
Kulsuma Begum, 32, is Secretary of Dokhin Marapara Mahila Bittohin Samabya Samity (South Murapa Underprivileged Women’s Cooperative Society), a civil society organization that is supported by UN Women and helps women in Teknaf, in Cox’s Bazar district of Bangladesh. “At the age of 14, I was forcibly married. After two years of facing domestic violence, I left home when my husband got married again, and I started my life all over again.
The UN in Bangladesh, in partnership with the Ministry of Women’s and Children’s Affairs (MoWCA) and civil society organizations, held a national dialogue to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The Dialogue provided a platform to mobilize coordinated efforts to address sexual violence and ensure accountability, with panelists ranging from legal experts, government officials, UN Agencies, the judiciary, parliament, law enforcement agencies, academia, civil society organizations, and the arts.
[ANNOUCEMENT] Deadline Extended!! — UN Women is re-establishing a Civil Society Advisory Group (CSAG), which was previously set up in 2012. As Beijing+25 approaches and Bangladesh nationally stands at a cross-road in terms of growing inequality and intensifying human rights and gender challenges, while aspiring to graduate from Least Development Country and become a developed country by 2041, UN Women has decided to relaunch a CSAG in order to systematically seek advice from CSO representatives on its work.
Shireen Huq helped found the non-profit organization Naripokkho in Bangladesh. Photo: UN Women/Fahad Kaizer I am Generation Equality because… Three things you can do to be part of Generation Equality: Make space for the younger generation. Listen to what young people are saying and respond to that. Protest. Everyone has to be part of the resistance, in whatever way. Hold public representatives and government accountable.
“When the husband doesn’t get the meal coming back home, he’ll hurl abusive words, that’s only normal. So during the flood, when the family went without food, it was common. Sometimes it was too much. I wanted to retort but couldn’t, fearing his beating. Since I couldn’t run away to escape his beating, with water all around. If I did snap at him sometimes, he would beat me and not give money for food for days.”