Bangladesh's women ahead of others | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 15, 2008 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, March 15, 2008


Bangladesh's women ahead of others

Good news, yet a long way to go

THE good news about Bangladesh's women is that in terms of status and gender equality they are quite ahead of women in such South Asian nations as India (except for Kerala) and Pakistan. The bad news is that when it comes to a question of access to reproductive health services, employment and decision-making, they yet have a pretty long way to go. Perhaps these are truths we have known for quite a while. What a report of the World Bank has now done is inform us officially of the conditions in which Bangladesh's women find themselves today. Implicitly, the report is also a broad hint of what must be done further to have the other half of our society take full and absolute part in any and all development related activities in the country.
On the whole, there is surely a sense of satisfaction we feel about the contents of the report. The efforts made in the last two decades or so concerning women's progress have by and large had an impact, a reality we can spot through the increasing numbers of women striking out into areas where they have been able to assert themselves. And we are not merely speaking of such areas as the ready-made garments sector. There is a bigger canvas here, one that includes women joining the civil service, the police force, the armed forces and even business. Thanks to the activities of various women's organisations, Bengali women have made themselves increasingly and properly vocal about not only their rights but also about the need for an end to all forms of discrimination against them in what still remains a male dominated society. But such an optimistic picture should not be reason for complacence on anyone's part. There is yet a lot to be done before ours can become a society where women's rights will be taken for granted.
It will be through ensuring their full and proper access to health care, especially in the rural regions, that the idea of women's progress can be advanced further. In the job market, women still do not come by the support and encouragement they need. Of course they have made progress in the civil service and other fields, but percentage-wise, despite their academic background, they are still way behind men. It is not unusual for women not to be made part of the decision-making progress, be it in government, business and even journalism. And yet there are signs of hope, as in the recommendations regarding the laws of inheritance relating to women recently focused on by the government. These proposals contain much that is appreciable and logical, which is why any misinterpretation of them will be unfortunate. In the coming days, therefore, the emphasis ought to be on a faster entry by women into the mainstream.

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