Bangladesh – a country where the prime minister’s chair has alternated between two women over the past 30 years – has called upon the United Nations to lay special emphasis on forming a Women Leaders’ Network to act as a force to ensure gender equality
Bangladesh – a country where the prime minister’s chair has alternated between two women over the past 30 years – has called upon the United Nations to lay special emphasis on forming a Women Leaders’ Network to act as a force to ensure gender equality. The suggestion came from Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who was addressing a High-Level Meeting on Women Leaders, Hconvened by the president of the General Assembly.
Sheikh Hasina has been occupying the post uninterruptedly since 2009. She earlier had a prime ministerial stint from 1996 to 2001. The principal opposition leader Khaleda Zia, who heads the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, had two terms as prime minister from 1991-1996 and then again from 2001 to 2006.
“It is greatly empowering to be with you all. I strongly feel that we can establish a Women Leaders’ Network which can bring us together, not just for one-off meetings, but to act as a force to ensure real actions to achieve gender equality,” Hasina said.
Hasina placed three proposals before the world leaders – the first two being harnessing of gender champions at the grassroots level, and nurturing of women-led organizations which need to be supported with sufficient political and financial means.
She said the UN has an important role in supporting such efforts.
In her third and final proposal, the prime minister said, “I invite you to convene a leaders’ summit to reinforce our common agenda for gender equality. All leaders - not just us - should join and present concrete commitments for advancing gender equality.”
The prime minister said that the impacts of Covid-19 have been especially hard for women.
“Unpaid care work has increased. Gender-based violence has risen. UNICEF anticipates additional 10 million child marriages before the end of this decade,” she continued.
“In Bangladesh, special emphasis has been laid to empower women”, she said.
In political empowerment of women, she said, Bangladesh ranked 7th in the world while an increasing number of women is joining the workforce.
“Almost 70 percent of the healthcare workers are women, and they are in the frontline in the battle against Covid-19 pandemic”, she said.
The prime minister said that our hard-earned progress is at risk of rollback.
“We need to act urgently to stop this. For that, we must place women at the front and center of Covid recovery,” she continued.
According to USAID, Bangladesh has made remarkable progress in the last 20 years in improving the lives of women and girls. Maternal mortality rates are falling, the fertility rate is declining, and there is greater gender parity in school enrolment.
At the same time, 82 percent of married women suffer gender-based violence and pervasive sexual violence prevents women from achieving their full potential. Despite efforts by the government and non-governmental organizations to reduce the rate of child marriage in Bangladesh, it remains the highest in South Asia at 59 percent of girls getting married before the age of 18.