The International Women's Day, observed yesterday, has brought to the forefront a range of issues that give us a picture of the state of women in this country. As reported by this paper, women in this country have achieved remarkable feats, regardless of the formidable challenges they confront. There are now more women in the workforce than ever and this has significantly contributed to the nation's economic development. There are also more professional women in various sectors, more entrepreneurs and social change makers who are women. Noteworthy progress has been made thanks to government and nongovernment efforts in girls' enrolment in schools, reducing maternal mortality, improving reproductive health and providing opportunities for women to earn. Yet while we celebrate these undeniable achievements of our women, we must also recognise the enormous task ahead to tackle the challenges that women face and consequently hold them back.
This is especially true for the majority of women who unfortunately happen to be poor and must constantly struggle with too many odds—violence of all kinds, at home and outside, financial insecurity, limited access to resources and little or no recognition of their unpaid work. While more girls get enrolled in schools and it has been seen that they also excel in board exams, many of them drop out at the secondary level because of early marriage, stalking and financial hardship of their families. Many girls and women end up as domestic workers which is often exploitative since they are not part of the formal workforce. Our cities, moreover, are not women-friendly—women are constantly harassed in the streets, in public transport, etc. Women from underprivileged backgrounds do not get adequate nutrition and have very limited access to health services which reduces their capacity to work, to have healthy babies, and to lead moderately decent lives. They are also far behind in digital literacy and cannot afford smartphones in order to reap the benefits of connectivity.
These are only some of the areas that must be considered in policymaking that aims to stimulate gender equality which is an essential prerequisite of development.
It is women's incredible resilience, selflessness and innovative spirit that have contributed to Bangladesh's progress in many areas. In order to sustain this progress and make this nation strong, self-reliant and dynamic, much work needs to be done by the government and private sector to remove all kinds of discrimination and obstacles that prevent women from realising their full potential.