DISCUSSION / ROUNDTABLE
CPD-BIGD Roundtable on Measuring Multidimensional Poverty for Policy
BIGD along with the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), organized a Roundtable discussion on Measuring Multidimensional Poverty for Policy on May 19, 2016 at the BRAC Centre Inn. Dr Sabina Alkire, Director, Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), University of Oxford discussed on multidimensional Poverty for Policy and talks particularly on the aspects of multidimensional poverty in Bangladesh regarding fulfilling the target of SDG as SDG talks about the multidimensional poverty and it also talk about no one to left behind.
Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, Dr. Sabina Alkire and Dr. Mustafizur Rahman (from left to right) at the roundtable
Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, Executive Director of BIGD and Dr. Mustafizur Rahman, Executive Director of CPD co-chaired the discussion. Followed by her discussion, Dr. Alkire participated in a question and answer session with the participants at the event. Among others, civil society leaders, academicians, researchers, development practitioners and representatives from government organizations attended the discussion.
As the Union Parishad (UP) elections have started the Local Governance Program SHARIQUE, implemented by BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University and Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation (HSI), considers the period as an opportunity to advocate for one of the program’s advocacy issues, which is increasing women’s representation in local government.
To reach a broader audience locally and to engage local government representatives, politicians and local administration in increasing women contestants in both reserved and general seats in the UP elections, SHARIQUE and BIGD held an awareness-raising discussion on March 10, 2016 at Shaheed Abul Hossain Auditorium, Sunamganj.
The event was an interactive platform where some research findings and field observations on women’s participation in both reserved and general seats were presented by guest speaker Prof. Suchita Sharmin, Department of Development Studies, University of Dhaka.
Following the presentation, a discussion under the facilitation of BIGD Senior Researcher Ms. Syeda Salina Aziz was held, where participants gave their views and shared experiences on the issue. Dr. Shanawez Hossain, Research Fellow and Team Leader of SHARIQUE, BIGD; Mr. Rafiqul Islam Talukdar, Senior Programme Manager, BIGD, and Mr. Amir Uddin, Field Coordinator, HSI participated in the discussion, among others.
Expressing concern over her eligibility to contest the upcoming elections Ms. Mahfuza Akter Rina, reserved seat Member from Salukabad Union, Bishwambharpur Upazila said, currently nominations are being collected from the field and political parties are favouring male candidates as they have affiliations with politicians. `I am seeking nomination for general seats this time but people are discouraging me because I do not have the political connections. I am worried whether my nomination for general seats will be accepted or not,' said Mahfuza.
Local government experts and practitioners have observed that in some regions there exists a lack of awareness of the fact that women can contest general seats as well. This observation came up again during the discussion. For instance, Ms. Orpona Sutradhar, another reserved seat Member from Rajanagar Union, Derai Upazila said, majority of women candidates do not know that they can contest general seats too.
Prof. Porimol Kanti Dey (Rtd.) of Sunamganj College said, the system of reserved seats should be abolished because it gives the impression that a certain number of seats already exists for women, so why do they need to contest general seats. Similarly, when we say that political parties should ensure 33% women representation in their committees, we are implicitly indicating that around 70% or the majority of committee members are men. Therefore, instead of keeping reserved seats, if every Ward has alternatively one male member and one female member, gender disparity in the local government could be removed to some extent. Similar opinion was expressed by Mr. Nurul Haque Talukdar, Chairman of Tanore UP, Derai Upazila.
Research findings of other organisations have long revealed women are not able to function effectively in the Upazila and Union Parishads because of capacity constraints. Highlighting this limitation Ms. Sabekunnahar Shilpi, Vice Chairman, Dharmapasha Upazila Parishad, said, although a woman represents three Wards, she is not given the due respect, resources or authority that a male member gets while representing only one Ward. If women are trained on the relevant legislative provisions soon after they get elected, they will be more aware of their roles. In addition, the government should introduce a minimum literacy rate to ensure efficient participation of women.
Commenting on the Representation of the People Order (RPO)’s provision of keeping 33% women’s representation in party committees, Mr. Abu Sayeed Md. Khalid, former General Secretary of District BNP, said, currently, the Parishads do not function properly and the very demand for party workers is absent. This provision can only be fulfilled if the local government is active and there are lots of actions going on at the local level.
Mr. Ruhul Amin, Co-Secretary of Taherpur Upazila BNP, said we men have to change our perceptions of women and step aside from our patriarchal mentality. We have to allow our wives and sisters to become elected representatives, otherwise how can we expect them to get ahead?
On the other hand, expressing his frustration Mr. Nurul Haque Afindi, Secretary of Jamalganj Upazila BNP said, I personally have tried to ensure 10-15% of women’s representation in all political activities of my party, but I am disappointed so far because no woman participates.
Mr. Md. Shahjahan, Chairman of Surma UP, Dowarabazar Upazila, said, “In this regard, women themselves have to step up as well and be more active in demanding their rights.”
Concluding the discussion and urging local politicians to nominate women for both general and reserved seats, researchers and representatives of BIGD and SHARIQUE said that women can easily get access to the public. As elected representatives, they are the nearest to citizens and can share their joys and sorrows, hopes and dreams. Therefore, building women leadership locally can help political parties in getting closer to ordinary people and identifying the needs of their constituencies. Nominating women for the post of UP Chair and supporting them to contest general seats will also demonstrate party commitment to internal democracy.
The number of women contestants, both for general and reserved seats in the local government elections, has declined over the years thereby questioning women’s political empowerment in local government although the Constitution and the National Women Development Policy 2011 are in favor of women’s political participation, says research findings shared at a roundtable discussion titled `Strengthening Women’s Representation in Local Government’, organized by BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University, in cooperation with HELVETAS Swiss Inter cooperation (HSI) and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) under the Local Governance Program SHARIQUE-III on March 20, 2016 at the capital’s Lake Shore Hotel. The event was held to have informed discussions on how to increase women’s participation in local government elections. Ms Maheen Sultan, Visiting Fellow, BIGD presented the keynote paper at the event.
Research findings and field observations also indicate women do not feel motivated to participate in the UP elections as they are often unable to keep the promises to their voters. Women are generally passive as political actors, economic barriers, lack of proper resource allocation and confusion over their respective responsibilities have drawn many of them back from contesting in the election. Moreover, women prefer to participate in the reserve seats because the cost of the participation in the election and others are less expensive and competitive than contesting for the general seats. However, participation in reserve seats may also put women in the sidelines when it comes to contesting elections in the general seats.
Addressing the issue of small number of female political leaders in the grassroots level of the government the speakers at the event said, in the UP polls the number of female candidates is relatively fewer than before. In fact, data from the Election Commission shows that female participation in different elections in the government has decreased over the years. From 2008 to 2011, the number of female participants in UP elections went down by 1,000 across the country, according to the Election Commission statistics. To increase women’s representation in local government, the speakers stressed on increased democratic practices within the political parties, strict monitoring of EC, pro-active role of civil society organizations and media, and political goodwill.
Earlier Ms Melina Papageorgiou Trippolini, Programme Manager, SDC delivered the introductory remarks. Mr. Muhammad Jahangir, noted media personality, facilitated the discussion round where participants gave their views and shar ed experiences on the issue.
Among others, Dr. Tofail Ahmed, Local Government expert; Mr. Abul Hasan Chowdhury, former State Minister for foreign affairs; Brig. Gen. (Rtd.) Md. Sakhawat Hossain, former Election Commissioner; Mr. Zonayed Saki, Chief Coordinator of Gano Sanghati Andolon and past mayoral candidate of Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC); Mr. Kafi Ratan of Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB) and past mayoral candidate of DNCC; Ms Ayesha Khanam, President of Bangladesh Mohila Parishad; Mr. Hasan Majumder, Country Representative, Asia Foundation spoke at the discussion. Other representatives included Dr. Shanawez Hossain, Research Fellow and Team Leader of SHARIQUE, BIGD, and Mr. Rafiqul Islam Talukdar, Senior Programme Manager, BIGD.
Citing the Representation of the People Order (RPO) of 1972 (amended in 2013) provision for political parties to ensure 33% of women’s representation in all their committees, Mr. Shakhawat Hossain said no political party has been able to meet that standard. Admitting Election Commission (EC)’s failure to issue reminders to the political parties to fulfill this requirement, he urged the civil society and women activists to work with the EC to press this demand.
Dr. Tofail Ahmed said the issue of declining women’s participants from local government elections is linked to the broader agenda of democracy. The present system of reserved seats is not an effective one. In addition to having one-third of seats reserved for women, a system of Ward rotation could be introduced wherein the constituencies representing the reserved seats get changed and rotated at every election to accommodate new constituencies. Also, it is necessary to hold the Upazila Parishad reserved seats election as soon as the Union Parishad elections are over by June 2016. The EC should take the initiative to declare the election schedule for this.
According to a 2015 research undertaken by the Local Governance Programme SHARIQUE, contesting for reserved seats is more convenient for women because the election campaign costs are less and the probability of winning is higher as women do not have to compete against men. The qualitative study revealed that political parties are increasingly playing a dominant role in women’s political empowerment. Although local women are interested to join politics, the political culture is not women friendly and various social factors prevent them from doing so.
Concluding the event on a positive note Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, Executive Director, BIGD said though there appears to be many constraints in terms of women’s progress in Bangladesh’s politics, the situation is improving if we look at the history of our democracy and feminist movement. Even industrialised countries were able to ensure women’s political rights after a long struggle only in recent decades. In this respect, Bangladesh, has not taken that long. Certainly further mobilising this progress requires collective and aligned actions from all relevant stakeholders, civil society organizations and media.
The following media covered the event.
IGC-BIGD Round Table on Urbanisation Challenges: Formulating a Research Agenda for Policy Action held
BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University and London based International Growth Centre (IGC) co-organised a Roundtable on Urbanisation Challenges: Formulating a Research Agenda for Policy Action on August 22, 2015 at the Daily Star Centre, Dhaka. The discussion focused on current urbanization challenges affecting Dhaka with the aim to define a research agenda that can be helpful in providing policy solutions to the downsides of urban density.
Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, Executive Director, BIGD and Country Director, IGC gave an introductory speech on the urban challenges that Dhaka is been facing for now more than two decades: congestion, environment and economic disparities. These challenges have been undermining the quality of life in Dhaka as regularly reported by the urban liveability indexes. Mr. Fahad Khalil, IGC Lead Academic and Castor Professor of Economics and Chair of the Department of Economics, University of Washington, chaired the event.
Architect Iqbal Habib and Architect Tanwir Nawaz contributed to the first session on the congestion issues in Dhaka discussing the necessity of better transport policies for Dhaka city, clear pathways for pedestrians and efforts in educating Dhaka city-dwellers with road traffic rules. The use of private transportation in Dhaka streets was also raised as one of the main challenges. Today 80 percent of Dhaka roads are occupied by private transports while public transportation needs to be improved to provide a better and cheaper alternative to Dhaka commuters.
Dr. Hossain Zillur Rahman, Chairperson, Power and Participation Research Centre (PPRC) introduced the second session focusing on urban health and environment. Dr. Hossain Zillur expressed the need of a continuous dialogue between academia and public sector, and how the former can contribute to provide solutions to the policy makers in health and environmental issues.
Dr. Taibur Rahman, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Planning, and Dr. Khairul Islam, Country Representative, Water Aid Bangladesh, evidenced the need of more government attention to the urban issues. Dr. Taibur Rahman discussed the government activity in drafting the Delta Plan, the upcoming government environmental plan and its priorities. Dr. Khairul Islam highlighted how water borne diseases caused by poor water sanitation infrastructures are putting at stake urban health.
Mr. Rashadul Hasan, Project Coordinator, Value for Waste, Swisscontact, discussed the challenges and the economic potential of waste recycle. He also presented Swisscontact’s experience in introducing household recycling practices in Dhaka northern area.
Finally, Mr. Ashekur Rahman of UNDP, introduced the third session on housing and urban disparities presenting the UNDP Urban Housing project and how new forms of collective financing can be implemented to provide land tenure and housing to the urban poor. Dr. Hossain Zillur Rahman also added how urban poverty is a major area about which the decision makers lack research knowledge.
In the concluding remarks, Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman and Prof. Khalil discussed the importance of having the public sector, civil societies and private sector discussing with the research institutions in order to find sustainable and long term solutions to the social and environmental challenges faced by Bangladesh.
Implementation is essential, if advocacy activities are to be effective, Experts say
Maheen Sultan, Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, Afsan Chowdhury, Dr. Abdul Matin, Manzoor Hasan, Ariful Alam (left to right) seen at the discussion
Speakers at a discussion on “Policy Advocacy and Lessons Learnt: Lessons learnt” said that implementation is essential, if advocacy activities are to be effective. The event was organized by BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) in partnership with BRAC Advocacy Unit on 12 March, 2015 at the BRAC Centre Inn, Mohakhali, Dhaka. Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, Director General of BIGD presided over the discussion.
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