Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday (September 20, 2023) said gender equality is not an option but rather an imperative to achieve a fair and just world.
“Our efforts to achieve peace, prosperity, progress, and sustainability would yield no result if half of the world’s population were left behind,” she said.
The prime minister was speaking at the annual meeting of the UNGA Platform of Women leaders titled ‘Accelerating the implementation of SDG5 towards achieving Peace, Prosperity, Progress and Sustainability’ held at the United Nations Headquarters.
Saying that every country is different and they have different challenges and different social and cultural dynamics, she, however, stated that when historic Agenda 2030 was adopted, all were committed to achieving gender equality.
“We cannot back out of that commitment under any circumstances,” she said.
Hasina mentioned that as women leaders, all have a responsibility to stand by all women and create examples that can guide others.
“We must leverage our position and power to achieve a gender-equal world,” she added.
In this connection, she shared two specific points. These are:
First, all must enhance their partnership base to make gender equality a norm across all sectors. The private sector needs to come forward to advance women’s participation at a higher level.
“As leaders, we need to engage with them and encourage them to take bold initiatives in that regard," she noted.
Second, all need to elevate their narrative from participation to leadership. Women must be in a leadership position to be able to influence decisions and make positive impacts in the lives of other women.
“And the UN must lead by example. It is regrettable that no woman has so far been appointed as the UN Secretary General. Time has come; we will have one soon.”
Talking about Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina said that guided by the constitutional commitment, the government has adopted the necessary laws and policies to ensure women’s equal participation in all walks of national life.
“We invested heavily in girls’ education and women’s economic empowerment. Girls’ education has been made free up to the 12th grade. We are providing stipends and free books to students up to the secondary level.”
She also said that the government has ensured that 60 percent of the school teachers at the primary level are women.
“We have taken specific policy actions to encourage women's entrepreneurship and help them access financing. We have ensured concessional loans for women entrepreneurs.”
She mentioned that the government has established the Joyeeta Foundation to promote and support women in business initiatives.
“We opened the doors for women in higher positions in government bodies. Women are now becoming judges of the highest court, ambassadors, higher positions in civil administration, the armed forces, law-enforcing agencies, vice chancellors of public universities, and so on. On the political spectrum, women are represented at all levels, from the top to the lowest tier of the government.”
The prime minister said that the government has ensured women's and girls' access to ICT and digital platforms. There are 12,292 union and municipal digital centres that were run by a woman and a man.
“We are providing training for women to work as freelancers. Our target is to achieve gender parity in the ICT sector, including tech start-ups and the e-commerce sector. We are one of the first countries to introduce gender-responsive budgeting.”
In this regard, she said that thirty percent of our budget is allocated for women's development activities.
She mentioned that women in Bangladesh have also been an integral part of our continued efforts to achieve sustainability.
“Our gender-equal disaster response plan has earned us global recognition.”
She said that the investments in women's development have given the country its dividends.
“Today, women’s contribution to GDP has reached 34%. Economic empowerment has also enabled women to play a greater role in decision-making, both in their families and in society.”