7 years ago

Closing gender gaps -- highs and lows

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While assessing the country's performance on socio-economic parameters, people tend to take extreme approaches; either they are too critical of the failings or exult at positive trends as though going gaga about it! Hardly ever a balanced view is taken.

In the process, it is not unusual to across an overlapping  of perspectives as if  progress in one area is cancelled out by the  lagging behind in another sphere. This shouldn't be the case; for, success stands out in its own right to be perked up by, while pitfalls, though despairing, hold their own lessons. The best way to benefit by comparative evaluations of a country's  rankings on  various indices,  is for it    to draw a balance sheet  and build on the positives and improve upon the shortfalls.

Admittedly, the nation stands to benefit from  the plethora of studies emanating from both international and national research bodies/think tanks that makes in-depth analyses of the country situation in all its major aspects. They apply their own tools, measures, indicators; in short methodologies.

There  are  obviously quantitative and  paradigm-centric differences  between the researches undertaken by national think tanks and the international ones, but there needs not be any qualitative difference in their output. The potential efficacy between the two types of appraisal lies in the national one  being focused and targeted while that of international origin  being comparative ranking the countries on a global basis.           

That said, let's rejoice in the good tiding for Bangladesh from the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report. Released as recently as on November 02, it revealed that Bangladesh leads South Asia in terms of gender equality. Actually, Bangladesh 'cementing' its position in WEF rankings as the top performing country in South Asia on gender issues means  much  more by way of leapfrogging.   Bangladesh has climbed to NO.47 on the global list from last year's ranking of 72, up by 25 places  just in a matter of year.

The pattern of gender gaps  is skewed on two levels: First, the high proportion of women at the  top of the political ladder is contrasted by the majority of women having no economic, social or decision-making right and power. Secondly, the proportion of women working in the readymade garments sector is high-though they suffer wage discrimination and lack of opportunities for promotion. Yet their representation and performance across the  rest of the key economic sectors  are  nothing to write home about. They are mostly engaged in low-paid and low-skilled jobs.

High rates of child marriage, early child births are compounded by the gaps in access to health. According to Action Aid Bangladesh, women are lagging behind in education and literacy, 'where enrollment does not reflect the real scenario.'

The cutback on secondary and higher education budget  seems unjustified vis-à-vis the BBS statistics that two out of every five girls aged between 15 and 19 drop out of school. That is when they are married off.

Lack of security due to   sexual harassment and incidents of violence against women perpetrated with impunity constitute worst forms of gender discrimination conceivable.

In fine, the average women earn about 60 per cent of what men do  for the same amount of work. One magic bullet for recognising their signal  contribution to  nation-building   can be through  monetizing women's huge quantum of unpaid, farming and household works, and reflecting them in GDP terms.  


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