Transport crisis for BD working women
Helal Uddin Ahmed :
The womenfolk of Bangladesh have played a glorious role in all national movements including the language movement of 1952, the mass upsurge of 1969 and the liberation war of 1971. Diverse pictures of women's progress have been observed all through this span of time in the country.
Apart from the country's Prime Minister, the female legislators have also been elected to vital positions in Parliament like the Speaker and the Leader of the Opposition. The female justices have been appointed to the Supreme Court, and many of them have now been elected MPs through direct voting in addition to filling up quotas for women through indirect voting. They are also maintaining a sizeable presence in the local government bodies including the municipalities.
While speaking about women's advancement, the issue of female education, particularly of girl-child naturally comes up. The country's girls have now achieved parity with boys in primary education. The girls are also making rapid progress at the secondary level and there has been a notable increase in the proportion of female teachers at the primary cum secondary levels. Many women are also participating now in educational administration. The role of mothers has been laudable in reducing the maternal mortality rate in the country. Constructive and positive policies of the government have been helpful in achieving this success. Mothers have been spontaneously participating in the immunisation programs for infants and children, which have attracted global attention and made Bangladesh a role model for the developing countries of the world.
The womenfolk have also come forward in non-traditional areas. Their successes range from conquering the Mount Everest of the Himalayas to participation in UN peacekeeping missions. Alongside their earlier roles as medical professionals in the military, their expertise have now expanded to those of commandoes, paratroopers and even pilots in the army, navy and air force. For the first time in the country's history, a female officer has recently been promoted to the rank of Major General in Bangladesh Army.
Women have traditionally played a significant role in the country's agriculture. Among the 21 tasks performed for producing crops, as many as 17 are executed by the womenfolk. The female workers are also playing a big role in the foreign exchange earning sectors of the country, including that of readymade garments. Besides, their presence is quite apparent as well as substantial sectors like tea, leather, pharmaceutical, small and medium enterprises. They are also bringing laurels for the country in popular sports like Football, Cricket and Swimming as well as non-traditional sports like shooting and weightlifting.
The contributions of women in small enterprises of Bangladesh have gradually become visible over the past few decades. There are over 300 thousand small female entrepreneurs in the country. Alongside generating employment opportunities, status of their families is also rising as a result. Women are also making their presence felt as secretaries in the administration, high level officials in police administration, films, theatres, photography, art and painting, sculpture, music, dance, literature and many other fields in the social and cultural arenas.
However, despite supportive policies in the public sector and diverse initiatives in the private and NGO domains, women still face various obstacles in their professional and social lives. Social outlook and family attitude have a large part to play in this. Women are still looked at as individuals vested with the responsibility of household chores. Due to this dual pressure at offices and homes, they have to cope with different kinds of unwanted pressures. While discharging these dual responsibilities, they have to endure many physical and mental torments. Therefore, grooming a mentality for sharing burdens at offices and homes with female partners is a big challenge for our patriarchal society dominated by men.
Statistics show that insame cases unsafe roads, unfavourable work-environment, and transportation problems are routine challenges that bedevil the working women on their day to day basis. The scale of harassment faced by women especially in public transports is still quite horrifying. People in general also do not appear to be disposed to combating these menaces head-on.
The Bangladeshi families usually tend to spend less on girls due to socio-economic reasons. Although the participation of women is rising in education, the rate of child marriage is not decreasing proportionately. The parents are marrying off their daughters before they attain the legally prescribed age out of a sense of insecurity and poverty. Besides, repression of women is mostly taking place inside their homes. These tortures mainly take place due to viewing women by males as subservient entities. Although there are government instructions, the banks even hesitate to extend loans to female entrepreneurs. Women also have to face many hassles for getting various financial and administrative services. The culture of impunity in our legal cum judicial system is also a big challenge for the womenfolk. But it is a matter of satisfaction and encouragement that verdicts in some women repression cases have been delivered swiftly in recent times. The government has undertaken many initiatives, and formulated numerous policies, laws, rules and regulations for the empowerment and progress of women. But multifarious challenges exist on the path of women's advancement. These must be identified first and remedial measures taken accordingly if this forward march is to be sustained in the short, medium and longer terms. Proper implementation of legal and policy regimes and adoption of appropriate strategies, techniques, projects and programs is essential for ensuring future successes in women's empowerment.
In this 21st century of the new millennium, women are not merely mothers, sisters, wives and daughters. They are equal partners and stakeholders in the relentless pursuit for socio-economic growth, progress, prosperity and development. This must be acknowledged by all, including the males of our society, if the country is to achieve the sustainable development goals as well as the status of a developed country in the not too distant a future.
(The writer is an Ex-Additional Secretary, Ministry of Public Administration. PID-Project Article)