Women’s participation in politics still challenging

By Sahidul Islam Rana

DHAKA, Jan 7, 2017 (BSS)-Despite a gradual increase in women's participation in Bangladesh politics, it is still facing a lot of problems in all steps.

According to experts and persons concerned, amid a change in overall political scenario in the country, the women's presence in this field

has remained at a level which is not at all up to the mark and they are lagging far behind in other areas also.

"In pursuance of the Representation of the People Order, 2008, the registered political parties of the country earlier gave a

commitment to the Election Commission to ensure 33 percent quota for women leadership, but in the last eight years they realized only 1-2

percent," a spokesman of the Election Commission (EC) told BSS.

The EC spokesman said the female candidates in 1991 general elections was 1.5 percent which rose to 1.9 percent in 1996 and the same reached only 2 percent in 2001 parliament elections. Only 55 female candidates took part in the 2008 parliamentary polls, he added.

Political analysts believe though the lackluster continued the women empowerment in the political arena in the last two decades has

gained a permanent shape due to a very positive role of the political parties having representation in the Jatiya Sangsad (parliament).

The number of reserved seats for women in parliament has risen from 30 to 50 over the years. But in the direct election, the

participation of women has remained at the lowest level as the political parties are still reluctant to nominate female poll aspirants to undo the domination of their male counterparts

in the parties.

In the 10th parliament election, the country got 50 reserved seat women MPs (Member of Parliament) -- 42 from the ruling Awami League,

six members from the opposition Jatiya Party and two others from the ruling coalition partners- Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD) and

Workers Party of Bangladesh.

Earlier, in the ninth parliament, a total of 55 women candidates directly vied for membership of the Jatiya Sangsad and 19 of them

achieved victory in the poll race.

In the ninth parliament, the leader of the House, the leader of the opposition and deputy leader of the House were women. In an instance

of a leapt in women empowerment during the said parliament, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inducted three females as full ministers in her cabinet. This decision of the prime minister was appreciated worldwide.

Apart from four cabinet ministers at this moment, women are now holding all the prestigious positions in the parliament-the

leader of the House, Speaker, leader of the opposition and mayor of Naraynganj City Corporation.

Outside the political arena, women are gradually gaining higher positions in civil administration,journalism, defense forces and law

enforcement agencies. The country now has six female officials at the secretary and additional secretary levels.

Sheikh Hasina and former Prime Begum Khaleda Zia gained the highest leadership position in Bangladesh because of their family connections

and in the absence of political institutionalization in the


"Awami League always gives priority to the women leadership . . . Our women-friendly prime minister and party president has directed to

ensure women leaderships at central, district and grassroots levels of the organization," Awami League Women Affairs Secretary

Fazilatunnesa Indira told BSS.

Indira said Awami League's last central council this year picked some 15 women leaders, including party president Sheikh Hasina, in the

81-member central executive committee and the figure was 11 in the last council in 2012.

But she hoped that Awami League would be able to ensure 33 percent women leaderships in all committees by 2020.

Talking to BSS, BNP Women Affairs Secretary Noor-e-Ara Safa said, "Women's participation in Bangladesh politics is gradually increasing

side by side with all committees of the party."

She said BNP Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia is leading a 502-member central executive committee of the party, of which, 12 percent

are women. Besides, in the 19-member BNP standing committee, Begum Sarwari Rahman is the lone female member. In the 18-member panel of

BNP vice-chairmen, Rabeya Chowdhury and Selima Rahman are the two female members. Only five females are included in the 121-member BNP


Jatiya Party has only 7.69 percent women representatives in the party organizational set up. The 55-member JP executive committee has

only six female members.

The women leaders have to face various family, social and religious hurdle in doing politics.

"I have become a councilor facing different obstacles . . . My father-in-law, his family members and locals did not accept me easily.

They always tried to make me understand the people's religious sentiment against female leadership, my security, so and so . . ."

Kahinur Rizvi, a councilor of Moukaron Ward of 4 number of Laukhathi union under Patuakhali Sadar upazila, told BSS.

Rizvi mentioned that her husband encouraged her in doing politics and in some cases of arbitration he used to provide cooperation.

Kohinur, meanwhile, demanded of the government to ensure a proper sitting arrangement for the women councilors and toilet facilities in each union council office.

She urged the authorities concerned to remove discriminatory allocation of government grants including VGF (Vulnerable Group Feeding) cards and other facilities between male and

female councilors to gear up women empowerment activities.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)