Women’s Capabilities in Education and Health improving, but remains insufficient in Economic and Political Field
- says Human Development is South Asia 2016 report

In South Asia, over the last decade and a half, there has been an improvement in women’s social, economic and political empowerment. However worldwide, the region fares better than Sub-Saharan Africa only. Progress has been considerable in improving women’s capabilities through education and health, but remains insufficient in economic and political fields. Beside this, a high prevalence of the incidence of violence against women points to the inadequate implementation of laws, finds the research on ‘Human Development in South Asia 2016: Empowering Women in South Asia’ conducted by MahbubulHaque Research Centre (MHRC) of Lahore University of Management Sciences.

BRAC Institute of Governance and Development, BRAC University launched the report at a city hotel in Dhaka on May 16, 2017.The research was conducted on Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Afghanistan.

The report demonstrates that, the overall picture of progress in South Asia not only masks the inequality in opportunity for women both between and within countries, but also across women belonging to different socio-economic, ethnic and religious groups.

The report also suggests that despite overall progress in key indicators, the promise of the MDGs is still unfulfilled and the region needs to intensify its commitment towards meeting the SDGs aiming to complete what the MDGs did not achieve-especially targeting stubborn challenges, such as in female leadership, voice and representation, as well as violence against women.

Speaking on the women’s empowerment, Chief Guest Rasheda K. Choudhury, Executive Director of Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE) said, there is a fundamental difference between participation and Partnership. Women in Bangladesh have progressed far in participating in various economic activities but they still lack opportunity at partnership level.

While talking about sexual violence that has happened in recent times, she described the difficulties women face in professional fields. She urged the government to increase budget in research sectors and thanked MHRC for thisreport, which is a reminder that there’s a long way to go for women empowerment.

Mr. M Syeduzzaman, Member, Board of Advisors, MHRC said, the report is a message to revisit and update the gender question in light of development in the world. The report shows the difference among different South Asian countries on gender development, educational progress, health progress, political empowerment and employment of women.


Earlier, BIGD’s Executive Director Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman; Rasheda K. Choudhury; Professor MustafizurRahman, Distinguished Fellow, Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD); Ms. Simeen Mahmud, Head Gender Cluster and The Centre for Gender and Social Transformation (CGST) and Dr. Rushidan Islam Rahman, Executive Chairperson, Centre for Development and Employment Research (CDER) launched the report in front of media. Maheen Sultan, Visiting Fellow, BIGD made a presentation on the key finding and recommendations of the report.

Prof. Mustafizur said gender-based violence costs 2.4 per cent of the country's GDP as existing laws remain inactive to protect women from violence. Bangladesh made significant progress since 2000, especially in framing policies and laws, which eased women empowerment. But we have to monitor whether the laws and policies are implemented properly or not. He also mentioned that a large number of activities, performed by women, remain outside the national accounting system.

Simeen Mahmud said that though Bangladesh's economic growth rate was third highest in the world, its public spending in human development remained lower compared to neighbouring countries.

Presenting the study findings, Maheen Sultan said Bangladesh scored 0.917 in GDI to be third among the South Asian countries, while Sri Lanka secured first place scoring 0.948 and Maldives placed second on the list with 0.937 points.

Female secondary school enrollment in the region reached 63.4 per cent from 36.8 per cent within the timeframe while Bangladesh lags behind reaching 57.38 per cent. However, Bangladesh has done really well in female tertiary education enrollment attaining 32.61 per cent comparing to South Asia's average 20.10 per cent in 2013. She also showed that the female life expectancy increased from 64 to 68 years between 2000 and 2013 while the country's overall life expectancy improved to 70.7 years from 63.5 in the same period.

Focusing on the empowerment of poor women, Dr. Rushidan Islam Rahman suggested improving their access to education, skill development and technology.

In conclusion, Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman said that political commitment was vital for women empowerment and hoped that the government would maintain the success while focus on addressing the challenges that remain.
Economic development cannot be measured only by GDP
said Prof Wahiduddin Mahmud

As Bangladesh is advancing fast in its efforts to ensure sustaining economic growth, the disparities between the income of workers and employers is also widening day by day. We are noticing the per capita income increasing as well as the economic development of our country, on the other side economic discrimination is also increasing. So, Economic growth should not be measured only by Gross Domestic Production (GDP), said Prof Dr Wahiduddin Mahmud at the workshop on Formal-Informal Labour Nexus and Bangladesh’s Growth.


BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University and Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) organised the workshop at BIDS’s on March 28, 2017 in the capital. The workshop was organised in partnership with the Rand Corporation of the USA and was supported by the Department for International Development (DFID) of the UK and the Institute for the Study of Labour (IZA) of Germany.

Prof Mahmud went on saying that the labourers are still deprived of a healthy work environment and the dues, benefits and allowances they deserve. He also called upon the government to come forward to take pragmatic steps to help the labour community improve their living standard. Though we often discuss the role of readymade garment sector, we have to formalise other sectors as well, he said.

He also said that the government needs to assist small entrepreneurs so that they can step into the formal sectors.

The outcome of the study suggests that although export-led growth increases employment levels, in terms of employment shares, sectoral growth causes a reallocation away from formal and informal employment towards self-employment, said Dr Krishna Kumar of RAND Corporation where he was presenting his research paper titled ‘the Formal-Informal Labour Nexus and Growth in Bangladesh’ in the first session of the workshop.

Presided over by BIGD Executive Director Dr Sultan Hafiz Rahman, the panelists at the workshop included CPD Distinguished Fellow Dr Mustafizur Rahman, Economic Research Group Executive Director Dr Sajjad Zohir, Professor at the Department of Economics of Dhaka University Dr Selim Raihan, BIDS Research Director Dr Kazi Ali Toufique and BIDS senior Research Fellow Dr Nazneen Ahmed.

Dr Shanti Nataraj of Rand Corporation presented the second paper titled ‘What Do Workers Value about Formal Employment- Results from a Worker Survey in Bangladesh’ in the second session of the workshop. "Our studies found that policies that encourage job stability are likely to be beneficial for workers," said Dr Nataraj, adding: "It is also critical for policymakers to pay close attention to poor working conditions, particularly for informal workers."

Dr Minhaj Mahmud, Senior Research Fellow of BIDS said, It is also important to enforce existing regulations about overtime and pay in both formal and informal sectors, at his presentation of the paper titled ‘Employee and Employer Preferences for Worker benefits: Results from a Matched Survey in Bangladesh’ at the workshop.

The research team analysed existing secondary data and also conducted several surveys on employers and employees of small and medium enterprises to find the links between informality and growth while also examining worker transitions between different types of jobs and estimating the valuations of specific job benefits by workers and employers.

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Women’s economic opportunity draws on all factors in society
Experts said at a workshop

cgst technical

“Women’s economic opportunity is not an isolated issue. It draws on all factors in society,” said Dr. Kaniz N. Siddique, at the Technical Validation Workshop titled Evidence Based Foundation of Women’s Economic Empowerment at UNDP on 14 March, 2017, to review a set of four studies on the current state of and opportunities for women’s economic empowerment in Bangladesh.

The study was done to gain a better understanding of the characteristics, opportunities and constraints for women’s economic empowerment in Bangladesh. It also attempted to provide an evidence-based foundation for government, development, UN and civil society partners for promoting and supporting women’s economic empowerment. Four related studies on Gender Aware Macro-economic Analysis, Analysis of Institutional and Social Constraints to Women’s Economic Engagement and Benefit, Opportunities Analysis: Market and Opportunities Analysis: Policy was completed for this purpose.

The Centre for Gender and Social Transformation (CGST) of BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University in partnership with United Nations Development Programme in Bangladesh and UN Women Bangladesh arranged the workshop.

Sudipto Mukerjee, Country Director, UNDP Bangladesh inaugurated the session which was followed by introductory remarks from Christine Hunter, Country Representative, UN Women Bangladesh and Shaila Khan, Assistant Country Director, UNDP Bangladesh. The presentation and open discussion sessions were moderated by Simeen Mahmud, Head, Gender Cluster and CGST, BIGD.

The research started in January 2016 and reports were finalized by end of the year. The study team comprised Dr. Kaniz N. Siddique (Team Leader Study One), Simeen Mahmud (Gender Expert Study One), Maheen Sultan (Visiting Fellow, Gender Cluster and CGST, BIGD and Team Leader Study Two) and Ferdousi Sultana Begum (Team Leader Study Four) with research assistance from Centre for Gender and Social Transformation (CGST), BIGD. Study Three is led by Dr Nazneen Ahmed, Senior Research Fellow, BIDS and began in December 2016 and is on-going.

Representatives from different Ministries and Departments of the Government of Bangladesh were present as participants, along with representatives from development partners, think tanks, local NGOs, private sector and different UN Programmes. Discussants acknowledged that more intensive initiatives must be undertaken to strengthen women’s economic empowerment in Bangladesh and suggested more critical perspectives through which market opportunities for women can be analyzed.
Decision-taking process expedited through e-filing 
Experts say at the Development Economics Conference

"Decision-taking process is getting expedited now as e-filing is taking place in 59 districts. But bringing more transparency in this process, mutual accountability of the people involved in the process will have to be ensured," said Dr. Mashiur Rahman while speaking at the Development Economics Conference jointly organised by BRAC Institute of Governance and Developments (BIGD), BRAC University and International Growth Centre (IGC), at a city hotel on 12 March, 2017.

Prime Minister’s Economic Advisor Dr. Rahman said efficient officials are needed in the government offices for formulation of right policies and their implementation. Otherwise, it is not possible to implement the government's plans properly, he said, adding that at the same time emphasis will have to be given on taking decision quickly.

First and second sessions of the conference were chaired by Dr Shamsul Alam, member of the General Economics Division of the Planning Commission.  

BIGD IGC ConferenceDr. Wahid Abdallah, Research Fellow of BIGD is presenting his paper at the Conference
Dr. Minhaj Mahmud, Research Fellow of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) in his research paper 'Infrastructure and Well-Being: Employment Effects of Jamuna Bridge in Bangladesh' showed that several numbers of mega projects are changing rural economies and they are helping in the market integration. Infrastructure developments like a bridge over the river Jamuna are integrating economic factors in Bangladesh that are helping the economy to grow, He said.

Along with the ongoing economic development process the government needs to focus its attention on several other sectors like improving industrial sector, facing catastrophe due to climate change, increasing skill in revenue collection and bringing changes in bureaucracy.

Dr. Asadul Islam an Associate Professor of Monash University presented a paper on 'Social Network, Referrals and Technologies Adoption: Evidence from Randomized Field Experience’ in the conference. He showed that information technology adoption among rural people can increase productivity and can also provide right-time information to farmers about using seeds, plantation and use of instruments for mechanised farming.

In the second session Adnan Khan of IGC presented his paper on 'Incentivizing Bureaucrats through Performance-Based Postings' and Dr. Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak of Yale University presented on 'General Equilibrium Effects of Emigration on Rural Labor Markets'.

The last session chaired by Dr. Mashiur Rahman, was also marked by three research papers presented by scholars from Ohio State University, Harvard University and of BIGD.
Emily Breza of Harvard University in her research paper on 'Scarcity at the End of the Month - A Field Experiment with Garment Factory Workers in Bangladesh' said through removing bottlenecks in mobile financial transactions among garment workers it is possible to help them in proper money transfer among their family members. Wage payment through electronic system, particularly to bank accounts, encourages workers to save, she added.

Joyce Chen of Ohio State University in her paper on 'Migration and Climate Change: Environmental Vulnerability and Location Choice in Bangladesh' has shown that Bangladesh's coastal people are badly affected due to climate change consequences. She said people are migrating to another places and some who are not migrating are fighting against the changed environment calamities like salinity, drought and others.
Dr. Wahid Abdallah, Research Fellow of BIGD in his research paper 'Electronic Filing System, Bureaucratic Efficiency and Public Service Delivery: Evidence from Bangladesh' suggested for adopting electronic filing systems in the public offices like deputy commissioner’s office.

Among others the conference was attended by renowned economists, academicians, civil society members and senior public officials from home and abroad.
Bangladesh's contribution to Knitwear sector calls for action not just words and
we must begin to engage to address the rapid change of the industry
Experts said at a dissemination workshop
SEIP workshop

Bangladesh's contribution to Knitwear sector calls for action not just words and we must begin to engage to address the rapid change of the industry, experts said at a dissemination workshop held on February 27, 2017 at a hotel in the city. The workshop was organized to disseminate Need Assessment Report and Outline of Course Curriculum of Executive Development Programme (EDP) under SEIP project and have feedback from entrepreneurs and experts of Knitwear Sector in Bangladesh.

BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University in partnership with Skills for Employment Investment Programme (SEIP) project arranged the Dissemination Workshop on Need Assessment Report and Outline of Course Curriculum of Executive Development Programme (EDP) under SEIP project. Professor Dr. Syed Saad Andaleeb, Vice Chancellor BRAC University attended the workshop as chief guest where Mr. Abdur Rouf Talukder, Additional Secretary and Executive Project Director, SEIP project was special guest. Among others, Mr. Arastoo Khan, Chairman of Board of Directors of Islami Bank Bangladesh Limited, Mr. Md. Khairul Islam, Joint Secretary and Deputy Executive Project Director SEIP project, Dr. Md. Shanawez Hossain Chief Coordinator of EDP, SEIP; and entrepreneurs and experts from Knitwear sector attended the event.

To accelerate the growth by increasing the productivity of workforce of the priority industry sectors including Knitwear sector, the Government of Bangladesh with the help of ADB and SDC is implementing this Skills training program. BRAC University is implementing curriculum development part for the Knitwear sub-sector. It will ultimately lead to establishing an Executive Development Center to address skills gap for the mid to high level managers as well as new entrants in Knitwear Sector.

In his speech Professor Dr. Syed Saad Andaleeb, said that it is a perfect platform for industry and academic linkage where BRAC University has accommodated SEIP for Knitwear industry development. The course will reduce the dependence on foreign resources yet will find ways to better collaborate in the fields of research and development and capitalize the scope of lifelong learning. He suggested that there should be a benchmark and monitoring of the training outcome for the feasibility of such training to integrate more such programs. In future there should be research documents for the next batch of activities. This training programme should focus on SMART goal with innovation and course delivery engaging the participants with critical thinking and problem solving discussions, he added. He also suggested different classroom management techniques like, flip class rooms, group projects, Q/A sessions to make the training interactive.

Mr. Arostoo Khan, who was one of the brains behind the idea of EDP told that, “My engagement with this project is more of passion. As you are all aware that we are going through a demographic dividend and a large number of young men and women are entering into the industry market. So we have to prepare them. Again China is relocating lot of factories away from China as the cost of labor in China is going up and we have to prepare our market for that. So these factors put an impact to take decision regarding the ADB funded EDP.”

Narrating background of the EDP Project, Dr. Abdur Rouf talukder, Executive Project Director of SEIP and the Additional Secretary, Finance Ministry said that there is enormous skill gap at mid and higher level positions, namely supervisor; mid and top level managers in certain industrial sector. Against this backdrop, the SEIP project of Finance Division under Ministry of Finance would like to work with leading universities of country to establish Executive Development Centre (EDC) to conduct nine month training programme to develop mid and higher level managers. Government will support the programme upto 2024. He also mentioned that the concept of EDC used here will be an entity that will support at developing world class business executive and entrepreneurs. He also briefly narrated the scope of the EDC, its beneficiaries, its funding modality and possible implementing strategy.

In his welcome speech, Dr. Shanawez Hossain, Research Fellow of BIGD and Chief Coordinator of EDP, SEIP said that, “I believe involving BRAC University with the project is recognition of its aspiration of ‘inspiring excellence’ in academic and research arena, what the honorable Vice Chancellor always dreams. Further this ‘Government-industry-university’ linkage established under this project is something completely new in Bangladesh. However, it is not new in many countries of the world where companies and universities work in tandem to push the frontiers of knowledge; and thus they become a powerful engine for innovation and economic growth. Silicon Valley is a dramatic example of such collaboration. Microsoft-Cisco-Intel and University of Melbourne collaboration; and BP’s Energy Biosciences Institute in the University of California, Berkeley is further example of such collaboration.” He thanked SEIP for giving chance to BIGD to be a part of this project and also for helping in all possible ways they can. He also thanked all from industry side for giving time despite their busy schedule, which urged to prove the importance of this project.

Later Mr. Md. Khairul Islam Deputy Executive Project Director, SEIP made brief presentation on EDP while Chief Coordinator of EDP, SEIP Dr. Shanawez Hossain presented the Training Need Assessment findings. Ms. Mahreen Mamoon, Coordinator of EDP, SEIP presented tentative curriculum of courses to be offered under this program while EDP-SEIP coordinator Mr. Sirajul Islam and Ms. Jannatun Naim facilitate the workshop. Representatives from several knitwear industries attended the workshop and provided their valuable suggestions and guidelines to make the EDP successful.

Political and social elites have been working as the driver of the country's economic growth
Experts said at the BIGD-ESID policy workshop
BIGD ESID Policy workshop

The steady growth of Bangladesh has been possible because of a kind of deal prevailing between the political and social elites, speakers said at a workshop in the capital on Thursday. The observation came as speakers discussed how the country maintained a ‘steady and reasonably high’ growth despite shifts in political regimes and economic policies over decades since its independence in 1971.

Representatives of administration, bureaucrats and politicians joined these elites in expanding their sources to earn more money from and the syndicate continued to grow through discoveries of new resources like new maritime boundary, they said. The experts taking part in the discussion also expressed concern that the 'deal' was not, however, enough to attain inclusive growth. They also appreciated achieving the existing growth trend, despite weaknesses in many of the market-enhancing institutions, because of a reasonably robust form of 'growth-enhancing governance'. But they also stressed the need for holding periodic, fair and contestable elections to satisfy popular aspirations, and for seeking legitimacy.

Brac Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) in cooperation with Effective States of Inclusive Development (ESID), University of Manchester jointly organised the policy workshop on 'Politics and Development, Democracy and Growth: Bangladesh and Beyond' at Brac Centre Inn. The workshop contained three important sessions titled Understanding the Politics of Economic Growth; Understanding the Politics of Social Policy; and The Political Settlement in Bangladesh: Past, Present and Future.

Taking part in the discussion, Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) chairman Professor Rehman Sobhan said: "The term 'ideology' is now a myth. Ideals are used to deliver speeches on the national days. Personal development is stronger than idealism. Whoever the player is now, all are motivated with this."

‘The existence of this equilibrium is related to the expansion of sources from where rents are collected,’ said Centre for Policy Dialogue distinguished fellow Debapriya Bhattacharya. ‘The question is how long will this equilibrium hold?’ asked Debapriya.

Mirza Hasan, an adjunct fellow at the BIGD, presented the first session’s keynote paper on navigating the labyrinth of the deals world and politics of economic growth in Bangladesh. He authored the paper along with Selim Raihan, University of Dhaka. ‘Ordered deal was maintained under military dictatorships, dominant party settlements exhibiting mostly centralised rent management, as well as under competitive party settlement in Bangladesh,’ reads one of the points mentioned in the keynote paper referring Bangladesh as a unique case. ‘In economic domain, the elites don’t fight. They come together at the end of the day,’ said Mirza. As a result, business community has become politically stronger, said the paper. It also mentioned that the country’s growth has been a topic of surprise for many given the facts that it has a bad reputation for governance and it is not the source of any extraordinary products that cannot be produced by many countries.

Dr. Sohela Nazneen, Institute of Development Studies (IDS), Department of International Relations, University of Dhaka; Ms. Simeen Mahmud,Head, Gender Cluster & CGST, BIGD; and Dr. Naomi Hossain, IDS also presented their paper at the workshop. Eminent academics and policy experts including David Hulme, CEO, ESID; Professor Wahiduddin Mahmud, University of Dhaka; Dr. Hossain Zillur Rahman, PPRC; Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, Executive Director, BIGD and Professor Rounaq Jahan of the Centre for Policy Dialogue and Mr. Kazi Anis Ahmed,writer and publisher discussed at the workshop on the presented papers. Sujan secretary Badiul Alam Majumder, The Daily Star editor Mahfuz Anam, Dhaka University teacher Asif Nazrul, and former caretaker government adviser Hossain Zillur Rahman attended the workshop among others.


Presentation: Political Settlement and Inclusive Development

Presentation: Navigating the Labyrinth of the Deals World: Politics of Economic Growth in Bangladesh

Presentation: Political economy of policy and implementation in the Bangladesh health sector: implications for reducing maternal mortality

Presentation: The Politics of promoting Gender equity in Bangladesh: The Domestic Violence law

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