Gender parity should not be the domain of privileged classes only
It is good to see that when it comes to gender equality, Bangladesh comes out on top among South Asian countries. This is the seventh time in a row we have achieved this, according to a report from the World Economic Forum.
Before congratulating ourselves too much, however, we must remember to remain realistic, and keep our eyes on the big picture: Bangladesh has slipped 15 places, and is now in 65th place in the WEF Global Gender Gap Report 2021. This means, even though we are doing better than our neighbours, it is certainly possible to demand even more from ourselves.
We must go beyond economics, for one, to address the deep social and cultural inequalities embedded within our society, particularly among less-educated segments, or in rural areas. In many households, girls are still treated as secondary to boys. A boy’s education and job prospects are prioritized, while the girl is expected to get married as early as possible to no longer be a burden on the family.
These are extremely harmful patterns of thinking that are not only disastrous for the well-being and empowerment of girls and women, but also for boys and men, because they create irrational expectations for both genders. It is time to move away from such sexist thinking.
Equality also needs to happen evenly, at all levels. In other words, it is not enough to have a handful of women in positions of power. Gender parity should not be the domain of privileged classes only -- it needs to happen across the board.
We may be doing better than other nations in the region in that regard, but as we move into the future, we must aim higher, all the while taking into account challenges like the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change, which threaten to undo much of the progress we have made so far in terms of gender equality.