India and Bangladesh are becoming role models of women empowerment for the rest of the world as women in both countries are now in leadership positions in every sphere of national and social lives.
This observation was made by noted Bangladeshi economist and former senior staff of the World Bank Dr. Abdun Noor.
In a recent conversation with Awaz-The Voice in Guwahati Dr. Noor said while India was ahead of Bangladesh in women's education and empowerment, massive changes and progress in the field of women's education and empowerment have been noticed in the neighbouring country in recent years.
“Despite being a Muslim majority nation Bangladesh is trying to break many glass ceilings by inducting qualified women in the judiciary as judges, armed as generals and police services, administrative as secretaries, diplomatic assignments as ambassadors and entrepreneurship,” Dr. Noor said.
In terms of political empowerment of women, Dr Noor said, Bangladesh is one of the few countries including India of the world that has a woman Prime Minister, a woman Speaker of Parliament, several cabinet ministers, and female parliamentarians.
The 83-year-old Abdun Noor has been an immigrant for most of his life. In 1973, he was working as the Head of the Education and Human Resource Department in the Planning Commission for the first fifth annual plan of independent Bangladesh. Besides, since 1970, he has been working with the World Bank in Washington where he lives.
In 1960, while studying at Dhaka University, Dr. Noor became involved in writing. His stories, novels, and miscellaneous works have been regularly published in various periodicals of the country.
Dr. Noor's writings have been widespread in the development of the society and culture of Bengal at the national and international levels. His first novel 'Pagasus' explores the soul-searching of generations of Bangladeshi and Indian origin living in the remote South American country of Guyana. The way of life of the generation of coolies who settled in Guyana as slaves from British India in the 18th century.
Dr. Noor’s second novel 'Shoonyavrita' depicts the life struggles, happiness and sadness, failure and emptiness of post-independence Bangladeshi immigrants in America and Europe centered on Washington.
His third novel 'Uttaran' brings the author back to modern Dhaka. The novel is about a conscience-stricken dancer's desire to lead a virtuous life and her struggle to establish an identity.
In 2007 Dr. Noor wrote about a lost Ahom Princess in his novel titled Bisholito Samay (Uncertain Times) depicting her journey to Dhaka in Bangladesh after getting married to Mughal King Aurangzeb’s third son Ajam Shah.
According to Dr. Noor rapid spread of girl education in Bangladesh is one of the prime reasons behind women's empowerment in the country. Since the 1980s, secondary school enrolments for girls in Bangladesh increased from 39 percent in 1998 to 67 percent in 2017.
Such progress is the result of several incentives, especially the Female Secondary School Assistance Project (FSSAP), which was instrumental in achieving gender parity since it started in the early 1990s first as a pilot and then as a nationwide program.
FSSAP was part of a coordinated effort to increase girls’ enrolment and retention in secondary schools by providing stipends and tuition fee waivers. Building on this success, the World Bank introduced a second-generation stipend program for the poorest children that benefited 2.3 million students, of whom 55 percent were girls.
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“When I was working with the World Bank in the early eighties the bank introduced initiatives like introducing toilets in schools, uniforms, scholarships for girls, and creating bank accounts to inspire students to go to schools. Our initiatives proved effective and dropout rates among girl students drastically declined,” Dr. Noor said.