A comprehensive approach needed to achieve gender equality in Bangladesh


Dr Matiur Rahman :

Sustainable Development Goal 5 (SDG 5) is one of the 17 global goals established by the United Nations as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. SDG 5 focuses explicitly on achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls. The goal recognises that gender equality is a fundamental human right and essential for achieving other sustainable development objectives.

Gender equality refers to the equal rights, opportunities, and treatment of individuals of all genders without discrimination based on gender. It involves dismantling societal norms and stereotypes that perpetuate unequal power dynamics between men and women and recognising the diverse roles and contributions of individuals regardless of their gender identity.

It is a critical component of social justice. It aims to create a society where all individuals, regardless of gender, have the same opportunities, rights, and responsibilities. It is also a prerequisite for sustainable development.

Achieving gender equality requires addressing systemic issues such as gender-based discrimination, unequal access to education and employment, and the promotion of equal participation in decision-making processes.

One of the foundational pillars for achieving gender equality in Bangladesh involves challenging and transforming deeply ingrained societal norms and stereotypes. Traditional gender roles often limit women’s opportunities and reinforce harmful stereotypes that perpetuate inequality. Breaking free from these norms requires a comprehensive approach that includes education, media representation, and community engagement.

Education is pivotal in challenging gender norms and fostering a more inclusive society. In Bangladesh, efforts to achieve gender parity in education have seen notable progress, with increased enrolment of girls in schools and higher education institutions. However, the focus must extend beyond mere enrolment to quality education that empowers girls with knowledge, critical thinking skills, and the confidence to pursue diverse career paths.

Halting all forms of gender-based violence is crucial for achieving gender equality in Bangladesh. Sustainable Development Goal 5 emphasises the necessity to end violence and discrimination against women and girls. Addressing this issue requires comprehensive efforts, including legal reforms, awareness campaigns, and support systems for survivors.

By eradicating gender-based violence, Bangladesh can create an environment where women and girls can fully participate in society, pursue education and careers, and contribute to the nation’s development without fear of harm. The collective commitment to eliminating such violence is essential for building a society that upholds the principles of dignity, equality, and human rights for all, irrespective of gender.

Economic empowerment is a crucial driver of gender equality. In Bangladesh, where women constitute a significant portion of the labour force, ensuring equal opportunities and fair wages is essential. Initiatives that promote women’s entrepreneurship, provide access to credit and vocational training, and break down barriers in traditionally male-dominated sectors can contribute to economic empowerment and gender equality.


The workplace is a critical battleground for gender equality. In Bangladesh, efforts to eliminate gender-based discrimination and harassment in the workplace must be intensified. Establishing supportive policies, promoting diversity in leadership positions, and ensuring equal pay for equal work are crucial steps toward creating inclusive work environments that empower women.

Access to healthcare, including reproductive health services, is integral to achieving gender equality. In Bangladesh, addressing maternal mortality rates, ensuring family planning services, and promoting awareness about reproductive rights are essential components of the broader gender equality agenda. Empowering women to make informed decisions about their bodies and health contributes to a more equitable society.

Legal reforms are instrumental in dismantling discriminatory practices and ensuring equal rights for all citizens. Bangladesh has made progress in enacting laws that protect women’s rights, but practical implementation and enforcement are crucial. Policymakers must continue to advocate for and implement legal reforms that address gender-based violence, discrimination, and disparities in various sectors.

Empowering women in decision-making roles is vital for achieving gender equality. Bangladesh has seen an increase in women’s participation in politics and governance, with women holding critical local and national government positions. However, sustained efforts are needed to overcome barriers to entry, promote political participation, and ensure that women’s voices are heard in policymaking processes.

Cultural norms often perpetuate gender inequality, and fostering a cultural shift requires a concerted effort from society. Television, film, and social media can be transformative in challenging stereotypes and promoting positive representations of women. Public awareness campaigns, community dialogues, and educational programs can contribute to changing attitudes and fostering a more gender-inclusive culture.

Gender equality is not solely a women’s issue; it requires the active involvement of men and boys as allies and advocates. Promoting positive masculinity, challenging harmful stereotypes, and fostering empathy and understanding are crucial steps toward building a society where both genders can thrive. Engaging men and boys in conversations about gender equality can help break down resistance to change and create a more inclusive society.

Achieving gender equality in Bangladesh is a complex and ongoing process that requires concerted efforts from individuals, communities, civil society, and policymakers. While progress has been made, challenges persist, necessitating a holistic and intersectional approach.

Breaking down traditional norms, promoting education, ensuring economic empowerment, and enacting and enforcing legal reforms are all integral to the journey toward gender equality. By fostering a society that values and prioritises the rights and opportunities of all its members, Bangladesh can build a more equitable, inclusive, and prosperous future for generations to come.

(Writer Dr. Matiur Rahman is a researcher and development worker.)