Formulation of women-friendly state policies is essential to ensure sustainable development as Bangladesh made great progress in female education, but could not provide them with equal opportunities in the labour market, said experts.
"Women have made a significant contribution to the progress of the country in the last 50 years. They have advanced in different sectors, but it is time to see if everyone is getting equal benefits at all levels as citizens," said Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman, chairperson of Brac, at a discussion programme titled "Break the Bias for a Gender Equal World," organised by the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) on Wednesday to mark International Women's Day.
He said there have been some work on reducing the killings and rapes in the country, but women are still being harassed everywhere.
He urged the government and the private sectors to address these issues.
Professor Rounaq Jahan, distinguished fellow at CPD, presided over the discussion held at the Westin Dhaka, while Dr Fahmida Khatun, executive director of CPD, moderated it.
Professor Rounaq Jahan said, "There is no alternative to truth, peace and equality for development. We have to ensure equal opportunities for men and women. Otherwise development will not be sustainable. For this, there must be initiatives at all levels – from family to parliament."
Echoing her, Dr Fahmida Khatun, said women are still lagging behind in Bangladesh in various fields including labour wages and politics. Gender equality is needed in all cases as bias in one sector promotes inequality in all the other areas.
Barrister Rashna Imam, managing partner at Akhtar Imam and Associates, said equality should be ensured in the inheritance law to eliminate discrimination between men and women. The prevailing attitude regarding the evaluation of women in the society also needs to be changed.
Taslima Akter Lima, president of Bangladesh Garments Sramik Sanghati, said a working woman works much harder than a working man. In addition to the workplace, they work at home. However, women are not getting equal wages and other opportunities as men.
Many factories do not have breastfeeding corners and separate toilet facilities for women, she added.
Syed Nasim Manzur, managing director at Apex Footwear Limited, said the main problem that causes discrimination between men and women is mentality. Many women have this problem too. In some cases, women workers at lower levels do not want women in higher positions. Change in this situation requires changes at all levels starting from the family.
Scientist Dr Firdausi Qadri also said women's rights and protection had not kept pace with the country's economic progress. Changing this situation requires a change in the attitude of the society.
Swedish Ambassador to Bangladesh Alexandra Berg von Linde said economic progress is not everything, social progress is also important.
Paula Schindeler, Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of the Netherlands in Bangladesh, said in many areas the girls have made progress, but there is still much to be done in the overall progress that is needed.
Shusmita Anis, managing director of ACI Formulations, Farhana Rahman, former co-president of Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services, Sahana Huda, head of communications at Manusher Jonno Foundation, among others, spoke at the programme.