The success of the apparel industry and microcredit has brightened Bangladesh's image globally, but women, the unsung heroes in the two sectors, still face discrimination in economic and development policies.
One of the main drawbacks is that women face inadequate resource allocation in the national budget and development planning, said Fahmida Khatun, research director at Centre for Policy Dialogue.
"Allocations and activities mentioned in the budget are not sensitive to women. In the government policies, women are not treated as the main agents of development," she said in her book, Bangladesher Arthaneeti: Vetor O Bahir, launched yesterday at Gulshan Club.
CPD and Agamee Prakashani jointly published the book, a Bangla compilation of her writings and interviews published in the media in the last couple of years.
In the 190-page book, she focuses on various economic issues, Bangladesh's achievements in various fronts such as food production, poverty reduction and human development, green economy, and the challenges in expediting the pace of economic development.
Akbar Ali Khan, former adviser to the caretaker government, praised the writer for raising the issues of gender discrimination in economic policy framing. "The issues require more attention in economic discussions.”
Khan cited the problems of early marriage and a higher prevalence of teenage mothers in Bangladesh. "It is necessary to increase allocation by identifying the problems."
In her book, Fahmida Khatun said women are treated as destitute and poor in the budgetary allocations, overlooking the fact that other women can be part of overall national development. She argues that women's increased participation in economic activities has not only helped the economy grow, but also contributed to increasing family incomes and welfare; but they still face discrimination in society.
She reminds readers of the limitations in neoclassical economic theories that have not included women's domestic economic activities in national income accounting.
The national income is calculated based on the products and services that are traded in the market for consumption. The writer says the theory is flawed and partial. "Macro economic policies become confusing for not taking women's domestic works in estimating GDP."
Gowher Rizvi, prime minister's adviser on foreign affairs, said the book would help everyone, especially those who do not have an economics background.
"It is a must read for everybody," Rizvi said, adding that the book provides basic information on a number of economic issues.
Sultan Hafeez Rahman, executive director of Institute of Governance Studies, said the writer maintains a positive spirit in her book, right from the beginning. Chairing the event, Rehman Sobhan, chairman of CPD, said the writer has the skill to translate scholastic excellence into popular readership.