Statement delivered by Mr. Iqbal Abdullah Harun, Minister, Permanent Mission of Bangladesh to the UN at the Annual Session of the UN Women Executive Board on 22 June 2020

Mr. President,

I would like to thank you and the Executive Director Madame Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka for your statements today. We take note of the progress achieved by UN Women in the implementation of its 2018-21 Strategic Plan. We particularly appreciate your role in ensuring centrality of gender equality and women empowerment in the UN’s sustainable development agenda as well as the country-specific cooperation frameworks. The lessons learnt in the process would hopefully help in formulating the next strategic plan.

We also recognize that the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic has posed unprecedent challenges in the work of the UN Women, especially in supporting member states in the implementation of the Beijing Platform of Action, Sustainable Development Goals and other global agendas. We envisage some adjustments in the programmes and priorities of UN Women to help member states mitigate the impacts of this crisis.

In this regard, we take positive note of the work already done, including collection and analysis of data to determine socio-economic impacts of this pandemic on women, and suggesting possible remedial actions. However, we believe more needs to be done in developing gender-sensitive recovery plans.

Mr. President,

 Achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment is a core national priority for Bangladesh. According to the recent report of World Economic Forum, Bangladesh has closed 72.6% of its overall gender gap and obtained top position in South Asia. Bangladesh is leading the entire Asian region in terms of women’s participation in workforce. Participation of girls in primary education is higher than boys.

Our achievements in women empowerment is the result of our strong political commitment coupled with innovative policy interventions, such as, affirmative actions aimed at integrating women in mainstream economic activities, investing in women’s socio-economic advancement, fostering innovations and social businesses targeting women and addressing the socio-cultural and security related challenges of women.

However, the Covid-19 can reverse the course with its devastating impacts on women. More than 94% of nurses and over 90% of community health workers in Bangladesh are women, who are now at increased risk of exposure. Women’s livelihoods are also affected. Women make up over 90% (91.8%) of our total workforce in the informal sector. Domestic workers, owners and workers in MSMEs, day labourers, street vendors, cleaners have rapidly lost their means to earn an income. Even in the formal sector, massive job losses of female workers in the RMG sector are being projected. Thousands of women migrant workers have lost their jobs with no hope for reinstatement. Girls are out school because of the lockdown and are at increased risk of violence and other forms of exploitation and abuse.

Mr. President,

 To address the impacts of Covid-19, our government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has already announced a range of initiatives. As many as 19 stimulus packages worth 12 billion US dollars (equivalent to 3.6% of GDP) targeting 60 million people have been announced. Government is providing food grains to 50 million people, cash reliefs to 31 million people, and baby food to 1 million children.

A good number of these initiatives are specifically designed to help women, and these include, stimulus package and soft loans at subsidized rates for women headed SMEs and MMEs entrepreneurs; special allowances and grants for doctors, nurses, and health service providers, majority of whom are women, to cover their medical expenses and life and health insurance schemes; and compensation for job and income loss of the RMG workers. Women are also receiving allowances under social safety net programmes and trainings for alternative income generating activities, with special focus on vulnerable women.

Mr. President,

At this critical point of time, UN Women has an important role to play to ensure that the gender dimensions of this pandemic are well-integrated in the national level response plans and implemented in sustainable and inclusive manner. It needs to support the efforts of national governments and also in dissemination of information on the impacts of Covid-19, in helping women entrepreneurs and workers recover from loss, and in mobilizing all the stakeholders in this fight against Covid-19.

At the same time, it must fulfill its mandated existing programmes aimed at achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment under the established global frameworks, such as the Beijing Platform of Action and the Agenda 2030.

To conclude I would like to reiterate my delegations full cooperation and support to the Executive Board and to the UN Women in fulfilling its responsibilities.

I thank you.