WE may feel encouraged by the upward trend in social indicators that give credence that women are much better off than they ever were in terms of maternal mortality, health, nutrition and even as far as job opportunities are concerned. But there is a glaring absence of women in decision making roles across all professions. This is where the challenge of gender equity really lies.
A roundtable organized by Prothom Alo and UNFPA recently, has highlighted the need for a significant increase in women's participation in politics without which empowerment is severely compromised. We may have women at the topmost tiers of the political scene – in both the government and opposition, no doubt admirable, especially when compared to many other countries, but in the middle tiers of governance, women are grossly missing. Selina Hayat Ivy, the only woman mayor in the country and representing Narayanganj City Corporation, has pointed out that even though women are ready to work hard they do not get the cooperation they need from their male colleagues. She may well be echoing the sentiments of other women representatives.
The unabated wave of violence against women perpetuated by the almost mandatory practice of giving dowry, child marriage and the impunity enjoyed by perpetrators of violence, has brutishly disempowered women. Parochial attitudes at the policy level as well as in social interaction serve only to weaken the nation by disempowering half of its population. They must be
discarded if we are sincere about taking the country forward.