Where we stand on women empowerment | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 02, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 04:19 AM, April 02, 2017

Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly

Where we stand on women empowerment

Among the South Asian countries, Bangladesh ranks fourth and fifth in the index of women in national parliaments and in ministerial positions respectively, according to data released by Inter-Parliamentary Union.

Nepal tops the index of women in national parliaments while India the women in ministerial posts, according to Women in Politics Map 2017 released ahead of the IPU conference that began in the capital yesterday.

Afghanistan ranks second, Pakistan third, India fifth, Bhutan sixth, the Maldives seventh and Sri Lanka eighth in women in national parliaments among the South Asian countries.

In the ministerial posts index, the Maldives ranks second, Afghanistan third, Bhutan fourth, Sri Lanka sixth, Nepal seventh and Pakistan eighth.

In the global parliamentary map, Rwanda, a war torn central African country, emerged as a model for women empowerment by holding the top position. In Rwanda, around 62 percent MPs are women.

France, Bulgaria and Nicaragua jointly top the index of women in ministerial posts with women holding 53 percent of ministerial posts in the countries.

Currently, in Bangladesh parliament, the prime minister, speaker and leader of the opposition are women. Another woman leader is the chief of one of the two major political parties.

Women leaders have been leading the government for the last 27 years since the restoration of parliamentary democracy in 1991.

To ensure women's political empowerment, a new provision was made in the political parties' registration laws in 2008 by making it mandatory for the parties to elect women leaders at its all tier of committees.

The provision set a goal and deadline for each political party registered with the election commission to elect at least 33 percent women leadership in all of their committees by 2020.

Bangladesh parliament has currently 50 seats reserved for women. In local government bodies, seats have been kept reserved for women.

Yet, Bangladesh's position in the global index does not look bright.

Women hold 20.3 percent of membership in parliament consisting 350 seats, which is below the global average of 23.3 percent. Women in Bangladesh currently hold only 6.3 percent of ministerial posts while the global average is 18.3 percent.

Contacted, eminent rights activist Sultana Kamal said, “Though political parties promised upto 30 percent quota for women politicians, none kept the promises.”

She blamed the patriarchal society for the situation as male politicians are dominating more in politics.

“The lawmakers elected from reserved seats are basically a prize for loyalty to the party. Apart from this, some lawmakers got elected through family connections. Overall, women politicians are largely absent from the decision making process. We have to go a long way.”

Bangladesh is however one of the 11 countries that have women as head of the government. It is also one of the 53 countries that have women speakers in national parliaments.


In the global map of women in national parliaments, Nepal ranks 48th while Afghanistan 54th, Pakistan 70th, Bangladesh 91st, India 148th, Bhutan 170th, the Maldives 179th and Sri Lanka 180th of the 190 countries, according to “Women in Politics 2017 Map” released by IPU on March 15.

India ranks 88th, Maldives 94th, Afghanistan 99th, Bhutan 134th, Bangladesh 152nd, Sri Lanka 165th, Nepal 169th and Pakistan 181st in the map of women in ministerial position. 

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