Highlighting women's contribution to raise their status in society
A roundtable titled "Highlighting women's contribution to raise their status in society" was organised jointly by MJF and The Daily Star on September 10,2014. The objective of the roundtable was to highlight the unseen and unaccounted contribution of women to society. It is widely believed that the economic contribution of women remains undervalued because there is no monetary value given to it. It is hoped that the roundtable will raise awareness among readers the importance of evaluating women's work in all its dimensions, both paid and unpaid and give it the dignity and respect it deserves.
Mahfuz Anam, Editor & Publisher, The Daily Star
In our society economic value of women's work and their overall contribution is mostly unrecognised because we do not monetise the value of women's labour. Usually, it is taken as voluntary work or family obligation. The financial cost of running a home which is almost always done by women is non-monetised. This is most dramatically revealed in the area of agriculture. In cities, women who work get payment but if you look at the rural area women are never paid for the work they do and their work is never seen in monetary terms. Research after research has proved that if women's work is monetised then the GDP makes a significant jump and so does the worth of women's work and their contribution to the economy.
It has to be brought home to the general public that just as men's labour has been given “monetary” values, we must do the same with women's work. Policy makers must also learn to see women as a wealth generating labour force that expands the economy and increases national wealth.
Shaheen Anam, Executive Director, Manusher Jonno Foundation
The issue of women rights is fundamental to the development of Bangladesh. In the last 43 years women have made tremendous progress .We have achieved success in some of the most fundamental indicators such as maternal health, enrolment of girls etc. Laws and policies enacted by successive governments have contributed to the political and economic empowerment of women to which the women's movement and NGO sector have played an equally important role.
Today we will discuss the contribution of women to the home, society and state and how it remains undervalued. We strongly belief women are making contribution in every sector yet do not get the dignity and respect they deserve.
Most of women's work is considered household work without any monetary remuneration and therefore not valued. The existing definition of work counts only activities undertaken in anticipation of economic return. Since there is no economic return that means women do not work. Non-recognition and undervaluation leads to the inferior status of women at home and outside.
The statistics of violence against women proves that women are not respected in our society. Despite our efforts for the last few decades violence against women continues. A BBS study shows that 87% of married women experience some kind of violence and 65 % of these victims experienced physical violence. According to Mohila Parishad , from January 1 to June 30, 2028 women were victims of violence out of which 431 were raped, 38 were gang raped, 45 were killed after rape. Most recently, a UNICEF study revealed that Bangladesh tops the list in abuse of adolescent girls.
We have come to the conclusion that women's contribution is not adequately recognized because it is not evaluated. Society does not know what women really do. Women are victims of stereotypes such as dependent and burdens to the family. These stereotypes push women to lower status.
Shamim Hamid's research in 2004 reveals the following. 43.3% women and 0.9% men are engaged in household work. Thus nationally we do not count 188 billion taka worth of work every year. This is a statistics of 2004. It is believed that if all of women's work were counted our GDP would double. MJF has commissioned CPD to estimate women's unaccounted work and contribution to the economy. We believe that it will have a strong impact on people's attitude as well as policy makers.
Manusher Jonno Foundation along with its partners and the government have launched a campaign titled “Equality through Dignity”. The campaign aims to show society the many contributions of women. The campaign will be evidence based and come up with correct information about the actual contribution of women. The idea is to “ to change mindset and attitude of society towards women and enhance their status in private and public domain and reduce discrimination and violence against them”.
One of our objectives is to create mass awareness. We need to sensitize media and advertising companies to portray women in a positive way and reject stereotyping of women that portrays women as dependent and burdens. . Policy makers have to understand that undervaluation of women's contribution to society is a hindrance to achieving development goals. We need to initiate more research on women's unaccounted work.
Women's unseen work have no monetary value but this does not mean it has no value. It is the paid and unpaid contribution of women which is contributing to the future of Bangladesh and taking it forward. I request everybody to join hands in this campaign.
Ayesha Khanam, President, Bangladesh Mahila Parishad
The issue of equality through dignity, opportunity and right is very important. Women' movement and rights organizations are addressing this issue in a multidimensional way. MJF has chosen a very important dimension which is the economic empowerment and the recognition of invisible contribution of women in the family, society and economy.
In Bangladesh, we see two pictures: On one hand women are climbing up Himalaya and on the other hand five girls between 15 to 19 years are victims of violence. In July there was 75 rapes, 23 gang rapes and 31 suicides. This is because of the undervaluation of women by the family, society and state. CPD's study will be a great help for women's movement. We also have some documents and tools with us and we should talk in light of these documents. We have Beijing Platform of Action. This platform of action talks about women's economic empowerment and mainstreaming women in economy.
Beijing + 20 is knocking at the door. Civil society organizations are preparing an alternative report. In this report, we should highlight women's economic contribution. We should also include issues like women's right to property and gender budget initiative.
We have CEDAW and Vienna Declaration and Plan of Action. We can use it as a tool to map the root causes of discrimination and measuring women's economic contribution. The Vienna Declaration slogan was women rights are human rights. Society, policy makers and activists will have to believe that women are born as full human beings and it is the society, law and attitude that make them half of men
Priya Powell, Head of Mission, AusAid
Getting women and girls valued as much as men and boys by society on the basis of their acceptance to participate equally in the economy and the leadership role is of course a fundamental issue in human rights. It is also about development and prosperity of women in the society. It is a challenge in every society.
I think the best way to change perception is to present evidence. And data is key not only to point why and how women contribute but to put a value on that contribution. Besides direct way of counting women's contribution to economy, there are indirect ways to count their contribution. For example educating women has very significant impact on health outcomes of the family and their children and in generational and transformational change.
In addition to evidence, targeted advocacy campaign is very important. Men and boys should be a part of the campaign. It is critical to take the other 50% on board. Another critical point is implementing existing laws on violence against women.
Mustafizur Rahman, Executive Director, CPD
Policy makers want evidence and data. Bloomberg famously said that in God we trust and for every thing else bring me data. In regards to women contribution we do not find that number.
The crux of the campaign is that women should not be looked down as part of the problem rather they should be respected as the part of the solution. That is the motto that should inform this campaign. If we want to do that women's contribution has to be estimated. This is a very challenging task. Most of their work are not monetized and some of the works do not have parallel in the market that you can compare with. Some of those works are really unique but we have to put some value on this. Our per capita income is $1190 per year. I want to put it another way. If you have 1,14,570 sq km what is the GDP per sq km. In Bangladesh, it is $1.2 million per sq km. It is one of the highest in the developing world. If you look at how many women are working in per square km you can easily count how much they are contributing to our GDP. I think, that will be highest among the developing countries.
The research commissioned by MJF will be using a representative sample and therefore result will be credible. We have also collaborated with the BBS. We will come up with numbers that will attract attention of our policy makers.
One of the major difficulties we faced in conducting our research is that many of the work women do are informal. Another point is that many of the works are becoming feminized due to globalization. Garments work is such an example.
Fahmida Khatun, Research Dircetor, CPD
A UNICEF report says that women spend 2/3 of their times in activities and do half of worlds food production but get only 10% of the global income. The traditional way of counting GDP does not count those work which does not have any value in the market. To recognize women's contribution we have to bring it to the national account.
In our current research titled “estimating women's contribution to the economy”we have 13,622 respondents among which 8324 are female and 5298 are male. This sample covers the whole country. We count their work on 24 hours basis.
The issue of dignity is coming again and again. Many women who do not work outside want to work and more than 50% women want to work for getting respect from family apart from supporting the family.
Salma Khan, Women for Women
I think two issues must be highlighted. One is underreporting and another is non-reporting. Women are involved in various activities particularly non-market homestead activities. Eminent economist Abul Barakat calls it Bhalobashar Orthonity ( Economy of love) the share of which will be 20% of the GDP if we only count paid work. Of unpaid work is counted the share will go upto 48%.
Before the BBS study, we used to think that women are most vulnerable outside but now we know, 87% women are subjected to violence at home by their husbands. So we should focus more on home. A woman will not get equality and rights in the society until and unless she gets respect in the family.
A ICDDR'B survey shows that 97% rural and 93% urban men say that women are inferior to men and a husband can beat his wife. We have to work more to change this patriarchal attitude.
Shykh Seraj, Director ( News), Channel i
From sowing seed to marketing the paddy, there are 23 steps of which 17 are done by women. If we look at the whole picture of food production we will find the same truth. Still, we do not recognize women's contribution in agriculture.
The agricultural dynamics is changing everyday where women's participation is increasing significantly than men. Where women earn they get respect from family. In rural areas, land owners no more do agricultural activities rather they lease their land to land less people, and at one stage many of the land less people are buying the land from the owner. Women are contributing significantly in purchasing land with their hard word and savings. Usually women do not get equal payment in agricultural works but they do not bargain because they are satisfied that ,at least, they are getting some employment opportunities. We have to work on this issue so they can start bargaining and get equal payment.
For getting a detailed picture of women's contribution in agriculture we can do a survey during a particular season in a particular agricultural belt.
Sarah Cooke, Country Representative, DFID
DFID is focusing on three areas: unlocking the potential of girls and women, stop poverty before it starts and to enable and empower girls and women. We want women's right to voice, choice and control. This requires women to voice in decision making in their household, in their community and in all the spheres of life. A woman should have the choices of completing her education, getting employed in paid work, getting married to who she wants to and having children if only she wants. We want a world where women will have control over their bodies, safety from violence, equal rights, access to justice and freedom from every kind of discrimination. In these areas of voice, choice and control, Bangladesh has made significant development. There are interesting examples where change has been brought in social outlook. Family planning is on such example.
We have already heard about whose attitude we have to change. It is the policy makers, community and men within the families. How can we target these different levels and what are the messages that are going to have most impacts? We have heard about the importance of evidence in bringing policy changes. How can we use the evidences and present in such a way that appeals to different audiences we want to address.
Salma Ali, Executive Director, BNWLA
We should emphasise on the issue of domestic violence. It is the most common violence against women. People have to be sensitized that it is a punishable offence. Besides physical violence, we should also include economic and mental violence.
Women do not find any remedy in the cases of harassment in work place and educational institutions because there is no specific law in this regard. The government should consider this issue seriously.
Monjurul Ahsan Bulbul, Editor- in-Chief & CEO, Boishakhi Television
I want to focus on cultural aspect of our society. If a boy grows up in a family where his mothers gets beaten by his father what can you expect from the boy? We should start from the family. We need to change the patriarchal culture.
Media, should be sensitized about women rights. Now, media does not publish the picture of a rape victim or the identity of the victim. I would request women activists to analyze media contents, and if there is something that is derogatory to the status of women, please inform the media and sensitize them.
U M Habibunnesa, President, Naripakkha
Dignity is at the heart of women rights issues. In our society a woman gets killed due to giving birth of a dark skinned girl child. It happens due to women's inferior status in society. Article 26 of the Constitution pledges that every discriminatory law would be abolished. Since then 42 yeas has gone by, our women are still suffering from discrimination in every sphere of life. We should get more and more people in these discussions and make them aware about women's contribution to society. Media can also play a big role in this endeavour. I dream of a channel only to follow cases of violence against women and other women rights issues.
Tahmina Haque, Manager, Women Rights and Gender Equity Team, Action Aid
Acton Aid is working on feminist economic alternatives. We are also working for recognition of women's unpaid work in the GDP. There are 3Rs regarding women's unpaid work: redefining work, reducing work load and redistribution of work benefit. We along with BRAC University conducted a research on time diary of women in two areas. I hope, the findings of this research will help future researchers.
Jinar Ara Haque, We Can (Campaign to end domestic violence)
We need to change the negative mindset of our community about women and their contribution. There are some elements in the society who portray women negatively and try to confine them inside home. In a popular TV show, a well known cleric often gives sermons against women. Our media should counter these propaganda.
The total system of law enforcement and justice is very machoistic. In this system it is really hard for a victim to fight and prevail for a long time. We have to work for a gender friendly system that does not discriminate against women.
Tariqul Islam, Secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Affairs
Today, I have learnt many new information about women's contribution. The government has pledged support to the campaign “Equality through Dignity” The government also did a campaign through the Joyeeta Onneshon Programme to highlight women's contribution to society and recognize successful women from various sectors. In our National Action Plan, we have instructed the statistical division to count women's contribution to GDP.
The government is very concerned about the issue of violence against women. We have introduced a toll free number that is 10921. We try our best to provide support to victims through government apparatuses. We do regular follow up of case. The government has set up legal support centre at Upazilla level.
We are trying to amend various loopholes in the existing domestic violence related laws. The government has reviewed Child Marriage Restraint Act through consultation with women organization. Soon we will finalise it. The Parliament will soon pass the DNA Act that will go a long way to ensure justice to victims of violence.