POST TIME: 9 March, 2018 00:00 00 AM
Significance of International Women’s Day
Over the recent decades Bangladesh has brought major improvements in the lives of women in a relatively short time span
Md. Sazedul Islam

Significance of International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated across the world including Bangladesh on March 8 every year. The aim of IWD is to achieve gender equality for women. According to a report of World Economic Forum in 2017, it could still take another 100 years before the global equality gap between men and women disappears entirely.

On the occasion of IWD, women across the world come together to force the world to recognise these inequalities and celebrate the achievements of women who have overcome these barriers.

The theme of this year's IWD is ‘Press for Progress’.

This year, IWD comes on the heels of unprecedented global movement for women’s rights, equality and justice. Sexual harassment, violence and discrimination against women have captured headlines and public discourse, propelled by a rising determination for change.

IWD is an opportunity to transform this momentum into action, to empower women in all settings, rural and urban, and celebrate the activists who are working relentlessly to claim women’s rights and realise their full potential.

According to the United Nations, IWD is also an opportunity to consider how to accelerate the 2030 Agenda, building momentum for the effective implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, especially goal number 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls; and number 4: Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning.

According to documents, the earliest observance of Woman's Day was held in New York on February 28, 1909, and was organised by the Socialist Party of America. A year later, at the International Women's Conference in Copenhagen, Socialist representatives proposed that there should be an International Women's Day, inspired by the demonstration in New York.

The delegates agreed that an international day should be formed as part of a strategy to promote equal rights for women and women's suffrage. It was celebrated for the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland on March 19, 1911. Two years later, in 1913, it was proposed to shift the date on March 8 and since then the day has been celebrated as International Women’s Day.

Though a hundred years have passed since the declaration of IWD, the condition of women in Bangladesh leaves much space for improvement. Violence against women is still prevailing in the country especially against those who come from the impoverished sections of the society. Dowry related violence, rape, acid throwing, domestic violence, sexual harassment, wage discrimination and social discrimination are widespread occurrences, which are also prevailing here.

According to UNICEF, socio-cultural environment of Bangladesh contains pervasive gender discrimination, so girls and women face many obstacles to their development. Girls are often considered to be financial burdens on their family, and from the time of birth, they receive less investment in their health, care and education.

The rate of child marriage and adolescent motherhood in the country is among the highest in the world. About 48 per cent of Bangladeshi women say that their husbands alone make decisions about their health, while 35 per cent say that their husbands alone make decisions regarding visits to family and friends. Violence against women is a major impediment to women’s development here, says the UN body.

Taking into consideration the plights of the women, who comprise half of the country’s total population, the government took a number of initiatives for their welfare.   

Education is essential in reducing discrimination and violence against girls and women and Bangladesh has made great progress in this area. The country has already achieved gender parity in primary and secondary education.  Over the recent decades Bangladesh has brought major improvements in the lives of children, adolescents and women in a relatively short time span. Thus the country has done well to reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) targets on underweight children and hunger, gender parity in primary and secondary education, child and maternal mortality.

Women and Children Affairs Ministry is working towards ensuring women’s participation in all development relating to capacity development of women by 2021. In the present decade Bangladesh has achieved considerable progress on women development, especially women education and political empowerment.

According to World Economic Forum’s ‘Gender Gap Index Report’ Bangladesh stood 72nd position among 144 nations in the world in 2016, and stands as the top country consecutively 2nd times among South Asian countries.

The Ministry is working for mainstreaming women in the overall development through establishment of rights of women and children and women empowerment. The present government has taken different initiatives on women and children development for the implementation of Vision 2021.

Bangladesh is committed to achieve comprehensive development for women according to the constitution. This commitment is expressed through Article 27, 28, 29 and 65(3) of Bangladesh Constitution. Article 28(4) of the Constitution provides for making specific law for women emancipation.  Apart from this, Bangladesh is a signatory to almost all international conventions and covenants for women development. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) is worth mentioning.

Driven by the constitutional obligations and commitment to the international legal instruments, the government has accorded special emphasis on the programmes to promote women’s development in the 7th Five year Plan, Sustainable Development Goals and National Women’s Policy, 2011.

The National Women’s Policy has set 22 targets. The overall activities of the Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs are closely associated with the implementation of these goals. The Ministry has formulated Domestic Violence (Protection and Preservation) Rules, 2013 under Domestic Violence (Protection and Preservation) Act 2010 to ensure equal rights and prevent all forms of discrimination in all spheres of public life and state.

In order to ensure overall development of women and children, the government has formulated ‘National Women Development Policy, 2011; National Children Policy, 2011; Early Childhood Care and Development Policy, 2013; Deoxyribonucleric Acid (DNA) Act, 2014 and Early Marriage Protection Act, 2017.

‘National Plan of Action’ has been formulated to implement National Women Development Policy and prevention of violence against women and children. All these instruments are targeted to transform women into a capable human capital through their political, social, administrative and economic empowerment.

    The writer is a contributor to

The Independent