In order to attain the sustainable development goals (SDGs) by 2030, Bangladesh must ensure gender equality and women empowerment in all regions.
But women living in coastal, disaster-prone and underprivileged areas are getting deprived of different government services due to various social adversities and a lack of adequate manpower in government offices, said speakers at a programme on Friday.
Besides, these women do not even know about the government's tech-based initiatives, for example "Hotline 109", to prevent issues like repression of children and women.
To empower these vulnerable and disadvantaged women socially and economically, specialised and specific government services must be initiated, and efforts should be made to increase effectiveness of the already existing services, speakers said at a dialogue titled "Gender Equality and Women Empowerment: Roles of Government Services" organised on Friday in Chattogram.
The Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) and Oxfam jointly organised the programme under a project styled "Participation of Government Institutions in Democratic Good Governance."
The CPD and Oxfam have undertaken the project in association with the European Union and the Society for Development Initiatives.
Dr Towfiqul Islam, senior research fellow at the CPD, presented the keynote paper at the event with CPD Fellow Professor Mustafizur Rahman in the chair.
In the keynote paper, Dr Towfiqul drew a comparative picture of gender equality and women empowerment in Chattogram in line with the SDGs and the different national policies.
He presented a pathetic picture of sufferings of women, residing in disaster-prone and far-off island regions, due to geo-environmental causes.
He said pregnant mothers and children of these areas often fall victim to different health threats due to a poor communication.
Women of remote areas are also lagging behind in availing complete benefits of government services because a lack of coordination is visible among different service-oriented government and private institutions.
The coastal areas of Bangladesh are stretched to around 47,000 square kilometres in 19 south, south-eastern and south-western districts along the Bay of Bengal, an area much bigger than some European countries including Denmark, the Netherlands and Switzerland.
These areas are home to more than 3.5 crore people (24.6 percent of the total population of Bangladesh as per the 2011 Census), almost equal to the population of Saudi Arabia.
The report, however, said coastal women are susceptible to different types of threats more than their male counterparts due to some established social norms and types of responsibility distribution.
The speakers also shed light on these issues and put forward different suggestions about the needful.
CPD Fellow Prof Mustafizur Rahman said specific programmes should be taken after marking those indices of women empowerment where Chattogram women are relatively lagging behind.
And to execute these programmes, it needs to effectively involve all public representatives and public-oriented organisations with government institutions, he added.
Dr Fahmida Khatun, executive director at the CPD, said the country needs a comprehensive empowerment of its women folks.
To this effect, women from underprivileged communities should be employed in income-generating activities through imparting education and necessary training among them, she further said.
Dr Fahmida especially laid emphasis on bringing poor and destitute women of these areas under the government's social safety net programmes.
More than 200 people, including public representatives of Chattogram, government officials, journalists, researchers, representatives from different public-oriented organisations, students, professionals and local citizens took part in the dialogue.