Md Zillur Rahaman
Once upon a time, women were neglected and were considered only for child care and household works. Time has changed and women are now considered the lighting force of the mainstream workforce in society. They are playing leadership role in politics, business, sports, social function, employment generation etc.
They are shining everywhere and at every level of the society. They are to be considered for the reflection of gender equality that needs for social development and progress of the society.
Women's empowerment is basically the process of empowering women and it can be defined in many ways. However, when talking about women's empowerment, empowerment means accepting and allowing women into the decision making process.
This puts a strong emphasis on their participation in political structures and formal decision making and in the economic sphere, on the ability to obtain an income that enables participation in economic decision-making. Empowerment is the process that creates power in individuals over their own lives, society, and in their communities.
Women are empowered when they are able to access the opportunities available to them without limitations and restrictions such as in education, profession and lifestyle. Empowerment includes the action of raising the status of women through education, raising awareness, literacy, and training. Women's empowerment is all about equipping and allowing them to make life-determining decisions through the different problems in society.
Napoleon Bonaparte said, "Give me an educated mother, I shall promise you the birth of a civilized, educated nation." Educated mother is the pillar of a nation and they are contributing like a tree in various ways.
Female Scholarship in the school and college level is the pioneer steps for upliftment of woman empowerment in Bangladesh. Women's participation in local administration like UNO, DC, secretary, banker, teacher, police, justice, armed forces division and various levels are showing noticeably and it has increased substantially to cope with the male and they are playing significant role in every sector successfully.
Women's empowerment and achieving gender equality is essential for our society to ensure the sustainable development of the country. Many world leaders and scholars have argued that sustainable development is impossible without gender equality and women's empowerment.
Sustainable development accepts environmental protection, social and economic development and without women's empowerment, women wouldn't feel equally important to the process of development as men. It is widely believed that, the full participation of both men and women is critical for development. Only acknowledging men's participation will not be beneficial to sustainable development.
In the context of women and development, empowerment must include more choices for women to make on their own. Without gender equality and empowerment, the country could not be just, and social change wouldn't occur. Therefore, scholars agree that women's empowerment plays a huge role in development and is one of the significant contributions of development. Without the equal inclusion of women in development, women would not be able to benefit or contribute to the development of the country.
It has to be said that education increases women's self-confidence and also enables them to find better jobs and they can work shoulder to shoulder with men. They engage in public debate and make demands on government for health care, social security and other entitlements. In particular, education empowers women to make choices that improve their children's health, their well-being, and chances of survival in the struggle life.
Despite significant improvements in recent decades, education is not universally available and gender inequalities persist. A major concern in many countries is not only the limited numbers of girls going to school but also the limited educational pathways for those that step into the classroom. More specifically, there should be more efforts to address the lower participation and learning achievement of girls in science, technology, engineering and mathematics education.
The Bangladeshi women have made significant progress since the country gained its independence in 1971. The past four decades have seen increased political empowerment for women, better job prospects, increased opportunities of education and the adoption of new laws to protect their rights though Bangladesh's policies regarding women's rights is influenced by patriarchal values.
As of 2018, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, the Speaker of Parliament, and the Leader of the Opposition were women. Bangladesh has also not elected a male as Prime Minister since 1988.
The literacy rate in Bangladesh is lower for females (55.1%) compared to males (62.5%) - 2012 estimates for population aged 15 and over. During the past decades, Bangladesh has improved its education policies; and the access of girls to education has increased.
In the 1990s, girls' enrolment in primary school has increased rapidly. Although there is now gender parity in enrolments at the primary and lower secondary school level, the percentage of girls drops in the later secondary school years.
Women in Bangladesh are engaged in many work activities, from domestic work inside the home, to outside paid work. Women's work is often undervalued and under-reported. However, the number of working women increased to 18.6 million in 2016-17 from 16.2 million in 2010.
Bangladesh secured the 47th position among 144 countries in 2017 as per The Global Gender Gap Report, whereas India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and Pakistan remain at 108, 109, 111, 124 and 143 positions respectively.
Bangladesh has been a role model in women's empowerment in the past decade, and the country is experiencing an appreciable change in society because of its efforts in this regard. Bangladesh's achievements in the past decade have been exemplary in many sectors such as in reducing infant and child mortality, poverty alleviation, increase in women entrepreneurship, education, and health.
Both the government and non-government sectors have played significant roles and they have often worked in a collaborative fashion. Early interventions were made in the field of family planning to reduce fertility and micro-credit was introduced to provide opportunities for income earning.
Mobilization of rural women by NGOs in villages to get services and use of women community level workers to provide door step services in health and family planning played an important role in improving infant, child and maternal health and income earning opportunities.
Recent women success rate is also very good and most of the cases, their job achievement is also really praiseworthy. In the business, they are doing better than the man in some cases, as they are more accountable, sincere, creative and devoted to any business.
The ever-increasing contribution of women in the society is clearly the evident to enlighten the society in a whole. Their active participation is really impressive for women empowerment and it helps to expand the economic growth, progress and sustainable development of the society.
The government should continue their strong support for upliftment and women empowerment that shows them as lighting force in every sphere of society. An educated mother enlightens not only herself, but also a family, gradually a society and finally a nation.
The writer is a banker and freelance contributor
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