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1 April, 2019 00:00 00 AM
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Gender equality is not a ‘women’s issue’ anymore

In Bangladesh, our work to achieve gender equality is well aligned with national planning and policy instruments related to women’s empowerment
Dr. Shahnaz Karim
Gender equality is not a ‘women’s issue’ anymore

Around the world, individuals and communities are insisting on the simple proposition that women and girls must have equal rights and asking the question: why is gender equality taking so long?
It goes without saying that gender balance is essential for economies and communities to thrive. Ending all forms of discrimination against women and girls is not only a basic human right, but it has been proven that empowerment of women and girls has a multiplier effect and helps drive up economic growth and development.
Empowering women and girls can contribute to the health and productivity of their families, communities, and the nation by creating a ripple effect that will benefit everyone. Women’s empowerment is a critical aspect of achieving gender equality. It includes increasing a woman’s sense of self-worth, her decision-making power, her access to opportunities and resources, her power and control over her own life inside and outside the home, and her ability to effect change.
Yet gender issues are not focused on women alone, but on the relationship between men and women in society. The actions and attitudes of men and boys play an essential role in achieving gender equality. Furthermore, education is a key area of focus. So, from a low base, South Asia has made the fastest progress in the world on closing its gender gap over the past decade. Bangladesh proudly holds the position of the top-ranked country in the region, having closed just over 72 per cent of its overall gender gap last year. The country’s most commendable success is in Target 5 of SDG 5: ensuring women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision making in political, economic and public life. Bangladesh recognises that investing in women and girls’ empowerment is pivotal for reaching the goals of sustainable development. Because it has been able to harness the potential of a previously neglected half of its population, Bangladesh’s economy is now booming.
Major progress has been made in closing the gender gap in school enrollments at both primary and secondary levels; girls currently outnumber boys’ enrollments. Although gender parity has been achieved in primary and secondary education enrollment, dropout rates are higher for girls than boys. So, regarding this the British Council Bangladesh has taken many initiatives and arranged many programmes which focus exclusively on the women and girls in the country. Such as the English and Digital for Girls’ Education (EDGE) programme aims to improve the life prospects of adolescent girls in socio-economically marginalized communities. The programme focuses on enhancing participants’ English proficiency, digital and 21st-century skills, and awareness of social issues. They have specifically worked with 14-19 years old girls who are either currently out-of-school or living in socio-economically marginalised communities. After completing the programme, participants are better able to make more informed and independent life choices.
Moreover, there is a growing recognition of the need to share experiences and approaches to tackle the inequalities and discrimination faced by women and other marginalised groups in society, as well as to celebrate achievements and champions. This is what the British Council is trying to achieve by celebrating the Woman of the World (WOW) festival. The British Council is also helping the women entrepreneurs of the country through the Women’s Entrepreneurs Training Programme (WETP). The aim of the programme is to enhance the participants’ skills and capability to be able to build robust and sustainable businesses. The programme expects to contribute to greater gender equality, as well as to more job creation and economic development.
The British Council has also engaged girls and women in civil society through volunteering and collective action. The social action project (SAP) has created a safe space for dialogue and promoting gender equality at the community level. The project also helps to promote improvements in the empowerment outcome areas at the grassroots level, for example by promoting women’s awareness and voice encouraging their participation in community life or generating opportunities and resources for income generation.
Throughout the world, in any development undertaking of a nation, women's empowerment is an inevitable part of economic development discourse. While there is broad recognition that gender equality makes an important contribution to poverty reduction and inclusive growth, there is also no denying the fact that at the heart of gender inequality lies unequal power relations between women and men in our societies. The initiatives taken by organisations like the British Council and the Government will help the society to understand the issue of gender inequality, and it will also help the nation to close the gender gap in a faster pace. The British Council therefore recognises that equality must be, above all, a matter of basic social justice.
In Bangladesh, our work to achieve gender equality is well aligned with national planning and policy instruments related to women’s empowerment. Our work in education, arts and society contribute to the SDG 5 agenda by creating opportunities for dialogue to influence policies that benefit women and girls; work with partners to promote access and opportunity for women and girls and build the skills and confidence of women and girls to achieve their potential and have more influence over decisions that affect their lives.

The writer is Director Society,
British Council
Email: Shahnaz.Karim@bd.britishcouncil.org

 

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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