Ladies and Gentlemen
It is a great honor and privilege for me to join you today at this MyEO women Summit and SDG Awards 2019. Let me begin by congratulating all the accomplished women and ladies present here today for their outstanding contribution to the progress of human civilization. I also take this opportunity to convey my most sincere felicitations to Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for achieving the Award for Lifetime Contribution for Women Empowerment from the Institute of South Asian Women (ISAW) for her dynamic leadership role in women empowerment. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is the first political leader to have received this prestigious recognition from ISAW.
02. On this day, the world has much to celebrate. We celebrate that in every country advancement of women has been identified as a key to development. We celebrate, the adoption of numerous international instruments- Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action of 1995, Millennium Development Goals of 2000 and recently the 2030 Development Agenda. In fact, the historic adoption of the 2030 Development agenda, with its core mission “leaving no one behind” is a powerful message to women empowerment. The 2030 Agenda, and its 17 cross-cutting goals especially Goal 5 Gender Equality, make it clear that development will only be sustainable if its benefits accrue equally to both women and men.
03. In line with its global commitments, the Government of Bangladesh has made relentless strides in translating its global promises into action.Our legacy towards pro-women national policy commenced immediately after the liberation war when the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman established a “Women Rehabilitation Board” for the victims of sexual violence in the war of liberation and granted government jobs to those victims that had some qualification and provided incentives to men to take their responsibility. His dynamic daughter, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina paid further respect to the war victims by conferring on them the title of ‘freedom fighters.’
04. Under the visionary leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, women are placed at the heart of our development agenda. Our development interventions focus more on practical need of women through girls’ education, self-reliance programme, collateral free credit facilities for women, vocational training and entrepreneurship. In addition, it also introduced gender budgeting, unique in the world. All these have increased women's involvement in income generating activities and thereby have enhanced their importance and role in the family as well as in decision-making processes.
05. As mentioned, our government has identified girls' education as an essential tool for ensuring gender equality and empowerment of women. Education for girls upto 12 grade has been made free, text books are distributed free of cost, girl students are receiving stipends. These have brought successful results in bringing gender parity in primary and secondary schools. In line with our Beijing commitment, we have also undertaken special programme for ensuring healthy lives for all women. Introduction of six months leave, maternity and lactating allowances, establishment of free community clinics are few critical interventions which have lowered maternal mortality by a 67% and infant mortality by 73%.
06. In terms of political empowerment of women, Bangladesh is one of the few countries of the world that has a woman Prime Minister, a woman speaker of the Parliament, several cabinet ministers and female Parliamentarians. Our government has reserved one-third representation for women in the lowest tier of local government and has made it mandatory for all political parties to ensure 33% female membership in all their Committees by 2020. For women empowerment, in case of UISCs nearly 5275 that government established across the nation, it made it mandatory to have a male and a female entrepreneur as equal partners.
07. We are vying to break many glass ceilings by inducting qualified women in judiciary as Judges, armed as generals and police services, administrative as Secretaries, diplomatic assignments as ambassadors and entrepreneurship. We are proud of our female peacekeepers who are holding our flag high in many UN peacekeeping missions.
08. Our "gendered" interventions have brought many positive results in improving lives and livelihood of our women and girls. The government’s social safety net programmes are tailored to include female beneficiaries, with particular provisions for widows, elderly women, women with disabilities and destitute women. We are also investing in empowering our women through ICT as part of our vision to build a “Digital Bangladesh”.It is encouraging that our women entrepreneurs have excelled in small and medium enterprises. Women are now getting loans at discounted rate. They are entitled to 10 percent of the SME fund and 10 percent industrial plots. In the 2018-19 FY, the government has allocated Tk 1 billion for the Women Entrepreneurship Fund, while the budget allocation for the fiscal year 2018-2019 was the highest of all time with Taka 136914 crores.
09. Women’s participation in agricultural production has also increased. 43% percent of rural women now contribute to fisheries-related activities. Furthermore, women now make up more than 60 % of the fish farmers in Bangladesh. The number of working women has increased to 18.6 million in 2016-17 from 16.2 million in 2010. We have 57% of our women engaged in the workforce, with 80% forming the backbone of our ready-made garments sector. The growing number of female migrant workers are contributing to our economy by bringing in their hard earned remittances.
10. Today, we are globally acclaimed as a “planet-50-50 champion.” We are also active participants of the UN program for ‘He for She’ from day one. Our Hon’ble Prime Minister received the most prestigious “Agent of Change” award for her outstanding contribution to women empowerment. We are thankful to our vibrant civil society and grass-root organizations for partnering with the government in its endeavours.
Ladies and gentlemen,
11. As we celebrate Women’s day, our call for gender equality and women’s empowerment must go beyond any rhetoric. We have a great opportunity before us and we must not miss this opportunity for the good of half of the world population. Let me conclude my statement reminding the audience what our national poet poet Kazi Nazrul Islam stated as early as 1920 and it says,
সাম্যের গান গাই
আমার চক্ষে পুরুষরমণী কোনো ভেদাভেদ নাই
বিশ্বে যা কিছু মহান, চিরকল্যাণকর
অর্ধেক তার করিয়াছে নারী, অর্ধেক তার নর।
Joi Bangla, Joi Bangabandhu.
I thank you all.