Empowering Change: Women in New Parliament

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Published on January 23, 2024
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Ensuring women's participation in the national Parliament is vital for a truly representative and effective democratic system. Women bring diverse perspectives and insights, enhancing government efficiency. Their involvement ensures that overlooked concerns are prioritised in legislative discussions. Gender parity not only upholds values of equality but also strengthens democratic institutions. Women in political power contribute to inclusive policies addressing the entire population. Their inclusion is a powerful symbol, inspiring future generations and promoting a fairer society.

Bangladesh's citizens eagerly anticipated women's performance in the political arena, which has traditionally been controlled by males and impacted by patriarchal norms that shape voting patterns due to the recognition of the importance of women's engagement in politics.

The shared aspiration was for political parties to augment the number of female candidates nominated, resulting in a greater presence of women that exceeds the levels in the 11th Parliament.

The anticipation was that through promoting more female involvement, the political arena would see a favourable change towards gender inclusiveness and fair representation in government. The results of the 12th parliament election indicate a notable advancement in women's empowerment, as 19 women achieved victory in direct competitions. This victory not only showcases the extraordinary abilities of these women but also emphasises the changing nature of the national Parliament.

The victory of Awami League President Sheikh Hasina, together with 14 other women candidates from the same party, serves as a prominent demonstration of the triumph of women candidates in the election. Four women successfully achieved victory as independent candidates, enhancing the legislative landscape's diversity.

Ninety-six female candidates participated in the parliamentary election, setting a new record for the highest number of women candidates in the country's history. According to data from the Election Commission, voter participation in at least 11 seats where female candidates were victoriously topped 43 per cent, higher than the national average of 41.8 per cent. Significantly, the election included two hijra candidates, highlighting the growing acknowledgement and embracement of varied perspectives in Bangladesh's political dialogue.

The development is evident when comparing this success to the 11th parliamentary election, in which 69 female candidates achieved direct victory, marking the most significant number in Bangladesh's history at that time. Nevertheless, the number of female candidates who won the election has reduced this time. Although the number has decreased, the significance of these 19 women should not be underestimated. Recognising the work and devotion that enabled females to succeed in an area traditionally dominated by men is paramount.

Notably, in the previous Parliament, female candidates affiliated with the Jatiya Party and the Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD) achieved triumphs. However, in the current election, female candidates from other political parties could not emerge victorious. Nevertheless, the achievement of the 19 women in the 12th parliamentary election symbolises optimism and motivation for prospective female leaders across all party affiliations.

Due to the boycott of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), the ruling party could nominate more female candidates under the boat symbol. Nevertheless, the ruling party chose not to take this risk due to the prevailing electoral climate in the country. Furthermore, the arduous effort of discerning the most competent individuals for nomination significantly shaped this decision.

The election results indicated that 55 incumbent Members of Parliament, including many ministers, were unsuccessful, suggesting that voters emphasised the trustworthiness of candidates over their political viewpoints. This movement exemplifies a favourable feature of the election, highlighting the electorate's ability to make careful judgments. Hence, it is challenging to ascertain if the rise in female candidates resulted in a greater likelihood of success due to the intricate nature of the election process.

It is encouraging to see that a significant number of female Members of Parliament have been nominated to important posts in the government. Sheikh Hasina's fourth consecutive term as Prime Minister further cements her position as one of the most extended service heads of the government.

Dr. Shirin Sharmin Chowdhury has again taken on the position of Speaker of Parliament, while Matia Chowdhury has been appointed Deputy Leader of the House. Dr. Dipu Moni MP, who formerly served as the education minister, has now been responsible for the Ministry of Social Welfare. These appointments highlight women's notable progress in Bangladesh's political sphere.

Promoting women's empowerment in the national Parliament is not just focused on numerical representation but on cultivating a setting where various viewpoints contribute to strong and effective decision-making. The triumph of these female candidates signifies a favourable transition towards a political environment that is more encompassing and representative.

While we commemorate their triumphs, it is crucial to persist in promoting and backing women's involvement in politics, guaranteeing that their opinions reverberate throughout the centres of authority. The 12th parliamentary election signifies a noteworthy achievement in the progress towards women's emancipation, ensuring a more positive and comprehensive future for Bangladesh.

Writer: Dr Pranab Kumar Panday; Professor, Department of Public Administration, University of Rajshahi.

Courtesy: Daily Sun