Bangladesh lags behind in most indicators of female labour force participation rate and employment, a webinar was told on Tuesday.
The female labour force participation rate has not improved much from 2010. As of 2017, it stood at 36.4 percent, while the corresponding figure for males was 38.6 percent.
Especially, the percentage of the female population is glaringly higher in NEET, at 47 percent, compared to merely 10 percent of the male population in NEET.
The unemployment rate among women is twice that of men, at 6.8 percent.
SANEM and Bangladesh Mahila Parishad jointly hosted the webinar on "An Analysis of Gender Sensitive Budgeting: Bangladesh Perspective".
The webinar was chaired by Dr Fauzia Moslem, President, Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, and moderated by Ms Eshrat Sharmin, Senior Research Associate, SANEM. Dr Selim Raihan, Professor, Department of Economics, University of Dhaka, and Executive Director of SANEM, delivered the welcome remarks.
Among the panelists present were Ms Selima Ahmad, Member of Parliament and President, Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Dr Sharmind Neelormi, Professor, Department of Economics, Jahangirnagar University, and Central Committee Member, Bangladesh Mahila Parishad; and Ms Samanjar Chowdhury, Operations Lead, BRAC Youth Platform, according to a press release.
The keynote presentation was given by Professor Dr Sayema Haque of Department of Economics of University of Dhaka, and Research Director of SANEM.
With 51 percent of women in 2020 being involved in child marriage, Bangladesh ranks among the top 10 countries in the world, she said.
She also said that the rate of gender-based violence is also concerning, with 54.7 percent of women being a victim of intimate partner violence in 2015.
Attempting to show the gender sensitivity of budget allocations in various ministries, Dr Bidisha analysed the improvements and deteriorations in some key gender equality indicators.
Pointing out how the rate of primary level completion and gender parity index has improved, she shed light on the challenges such as higher education, Technical and Vocational Education and Training enrollment, and technological inclusiveness, the rates of which have declined.
Dr Bidisha stressed the importance of working on these areas to reduce discrimination.
“Bangladesh lags behind in most indicators of female labour force participation rate and employment,” she said.
She mentioned that the Labour Force participation rate of women has not improved much from 2010, with the percentage of male and female labor participation rate being 38.6 percent and 36.37 percent, respectively, in 2017.
Stressing on the importance of gender-sensitive budgeting, Dr Bidisha talked about how this can be a tool to address existing fault lines in policy implementation.
“This can help the allocation of funds based on gender disparity across all sectors, along with the assistance of a proper monitoring and evaluation mechanism.”
To implement a gender budget in Bangladesh, she said, a call circular outlining 14 criteria and yardsticks is sent out to all ministries. After every program is assessed and checked, a gender-sensitivity score of between 0 to 100 is assigned to the projects.
These evaluations are then analyzed through the Recurrent Capital, Gender, and Poverty Database (RCGP) model to decide the percentage of expenditure allocation towards women's benefit. Finance Ministry formulates the gender budgeting report after amalgamating the information of all such ministries.
Between the fiscal years 2009-10 and 2021-22, expenditure allocation towards women has gone up, she added.
However, for several ministries such as the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education, and the Health Services Division, even though indirect expenditure has gone up, a downward trend in direct expenditure has been observed since such important ministries have been reducing direct budgeting.
Although FY 2021-22 has seen the implementation of several key policies and programs for women in the budget, that is only one side of the coin, she said.
On the other side, several notable gender-sensitive projects have been unapproved after funding was discontinued, she said.
Dr Bidisha went on to emphasize the various challenges faced by Bangladesh when it comes to gender budgeting.
She mentioned how the gender budget comprises both operating and development budgets, even though the impact of these two budgets is not similar for the marginal population or the larger cohort, along with the fact that not all development projects contribute towards female empowerment in the same way or manner.
“Lack of transparency and the discontinuation of crucial gender-specific projects has also been an issue.”
She categorized the gender sensitivity of ADP into three categories: gender-specific policies, such as the establishment of Four Mohila Polytechnic Institutes in the country; gender-induced policies, such as the development of Entrepreneurs and Connection for Employment project; and undefined policies, such as the establishment of four engineering colleges, polytechnic institutes in 23 districts, and increased facilities for admission in existing polytechnic institutes.
A steady increase in "directly" gender-sensitive projects has been observed from 2017 to 2021.
Still, the proportion of directly gender-sensitive projects have gone down by 2 percent in the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs during this period.
Summing up her presentation with some key recommendations, Bidisha emphasised the need to strengthen monitoring and evaluation of projects, with the implementation status of the programs being monitored regularly.
She suggested prioritizing projects that directly target SDGs (e.g., 5,8,3,4) during budget allocation.
The importance of impact analysis and gender-sensitivity analysis was stressed upon, along with the need for improved coordination between ministries, suggesting Ministry of Women and Children Affairs to lead the ministries on these issues. This would require further strengthening of the capacity of the Ministry.
The Mid Term Budgetary Framework (MTBF) also needs to be reviewed for incorporating better allocation in gender-sensitive projects.
Finally, international best practices such as gender audit, ex-ante, and ex-post gender impact assessment of policies should be gradually introduced in gender budgeting.
Dr Selim Raihan stressed the importance of ensuring women's social, political, and economic rights, stating that economic growth would be deemed meaningless without the proper establishment of such rights.
He stated how even though all government bodies have widely acknowledged the need for women's empowerment, proper implementation has been lacking.
“Especially from the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the burden on women has increased disproportionately.”
Speaking of how the gender budgeting template is adequately comprehensive, he raised the question of how much it is actually implemented.