Still a man’s world!

September 4, 2013

Guest Post by Tahmina Shafique, WB-SAES Youth Delegate from Bangladesh  at http://southasiaeconomicsummit.wordpress.com/

A session to address gender disparities in the economic context held this afternoon, had approximately 70% women participation and very few men! Well, there we go with disparity!

One does not need to go into details of the massive levels of gender disparity that exists in South Asia. It is prominent in every sphere of our lives. Despite representing about 50% of the total population in each country in the region, and having achieved much progress, we have not been able to break that boundary. Participation of women in all levels have been significantly slow and a battle that we continue to fight.

So, as we continue to speak about growth, inclusive growth, we must bring about the issue of gender disparities. One may argue that this is of course a given. But, in the context of South Asia, given the backdrop of a traditional social structure that deems women secondary, such an economic summit must bring the issue of gender disparity on the forefront. How does South Asia as a region achieve that higher growth without gender parity?

This afternoon’s parallel session on “Mind the Gap” questioned exactly this. Numerous studies revealed during this session, stated that massive levels of inequality exist and need urgent attention. Inequality exists in the household decision making process, labour force participation, education, and more. Participation in parliaments and politics remains to be significantly low. Turns out gender inequality index remains to be low even in a country such as Sri Lanka, which battled to be out there in terms of gender parity from the 70s. Despite the improvements in education levels, it seems that the demand for jobs remains to be low to cater to the growing number of woman. The types of jobs and legislation are still written from a man’s perspectives.

If we take the case of Bangladesh, private sector is a thriving sector. It has been, by and large the driver and engine for economic growth. If we look at the thriving sector RMG, approximately 80% of the workers are women. But, wait a minute, all of these women are employed at the lowest levels. Move to the supervisory or managerial roles, their participation is insignificant.

Our development agenda and goals do focus on gender parity and gender mainstreaming. But one thing that we have been unable to move away from this obsession with representing women as the recipient of growth, a “trickle down” effect of growth, or being the poor, minority segment.

The truth is, we are not minority in any possible shape or form. We represent 50% of the population. So why are we not moving into mainstreaming women in the economy to achieve growth, instead of making them a side-kick or the victim who has benefited from growth?

If we are to continue this discourse on gender equality, than we must begin this in practices. Civil society needs to play an active role in ensuring that each levels of distribution system looks at inclusion and means of inclusion of women.

Economic concepts cannot be looked at in an isolated manner. It needs to linked with social aspects.

Mind the Gap

If the societal values need to be looked at, it needs to start from home. It needs to start from education. It is within the children that we need to instill the values that are not characterized by patriarchy. It is here that the value systems develop and it is here how the view of a woman and her worth is shaped within our homes and societies.


This gender parity battle has been fought for way too long. And this battle for prosperous economic growth cannot be won in a man’s world. Turn it around, and it all might just start shifting.

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