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Moral From A Bangla Tale of Development

Since time immemorial, a part of the population was dejected by cultures. Traditions secluded them in four walls. Religion taught them to respect the other sect but not self-respect. Even now they strive to show their face to the public in many countries. This is not a historic tale but a painful haunting reality. Yes, this is the story of a Phoenix, an immortal bird that rose away from the ashes and flew freely to the wide blue sky – a tale of Bangla women.

Signing Of Instrument of Surrender by Pakistan

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Painful Birth


Fragmented from Pakistan through a brutal civil war, Bangladesh was one of the poorest countries at birth in 1971. Then, the Awami-led Government headed toward a socialist economy by nationalizing all industries which further raised the miseries, proving to be a historic blunder.

Poverty neared an alarming rate of 43.5 percent in 1990. There were critical shortages in food grains and other staples. Foreign exchange reserves were minute and the financial system was unreliable. Inflation ran between 300 and 400 percent. Political instability and corruption drove the nation to extreme poverty. Since birth, the nation was deeply disturbed by natural disasters like floods, cyclones, tsunamis, and drought. The hues and cries of malnourished Bangla children echoed the world leading the international society to close the fate of the underdeveloped South Asian country as a basket case.

An Uprising Of the Helpless

All these negative situations led to the large-scale migration of the vast unemployed workforce. Imagine the lives of lonely women in a blindfolded society along with poverty and natural disasters. But the women of the land of rivers were no longer interested in flowing endless stream of tears. They realized that their income was vital to family survival. Thus, for the first time, they broke away the shackles of chains strangling their neck, created by old-aged customs and traditions. They started to actively participate in the economic activities of the nation.

Women indulged in Agriculture

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From the 1990s women handled a crucial role in the agricultural sector which acted as a pillar in holding the underdeveloped country suffering from an acute shortage of food grains. About 80 percent of the women engaged in agriculture as part-time laborers, cultivators, or tenants. Since then the economic contribution of women was substantial but was not acknowledged or helped by the patriarchic society.

Challenges

The field revolution did not last long. Population burst and agricultural instability drove them out of the fields. Consequently, they seek employment in small-scale industries, especially the textile industry. Accordingly, the female participation rate doubled and girls’ enrolment in primary schools rapidly increased. Overall, the 1990s witnessed one of the first attempts at women’s revival in the country.

No country can truly develop if half its population is left behind

— Justine Greening

But, female wage rates were considerably low. Those days an employer could hire a woman with 20 to 30 percent of the male wage rate. A market force of labor demand-supply chain also worked out here, as the country has a large unemployed sect. Most of the working women were subjected to employer exploitation and unsafe labor conditions. They were not free from the ‘eve harassments', especially in rural areas. Despite these challenges their battle for survival continued. As a result, the role of women gradually strengthened in almost all sectors. They started to hold the political arena of the nation and women’s influence in politics jumped up. It is to be noted that since 1991, all the Prime Minister elections were won by females.

1998 Floods

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International support

With the 1998 floods, international aid flooded in, and several foreign Non-Government Organizations started to operate in the nation. The external support stretched out to Bangladesh could not be omitted while describing this tale.

In 2003, IMF approved 3 years $490 million plan as a part of poverty reduction. Similarly, World Bank issued $536 million in interest-free loans. Neighboring countries like India and China supported financial support to the nation. All these global efforts were vital in balancing the poverty-stricken nation, which might have become the worst wasteland in the modern world.



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As a result, figures showed steady growth. Real GDP continuously maintained at least 5 percent since 2003. Exports in the textile industry doubled up resulting in a significant increase in foreign exchange making it capable enough to give employment to over 1 million women. Foreign direct investments climbed up. Multinational companies started to initiate investments.

Role of NGOs

Despite economic development, social development was miles ahead. Even after 2005, equality in wages was far ahead for the women population. But, now arises the catch. Bangladesh in 2005s was no longer a closed nutshell but was vested with significant interests from the international community, especially Non-Government Organizations. Since 2008 several NGOs made massive efforts to study and mingle with working women. They upheld women’s rights in the workplace including their right to equal pay and workplace safety. They played pivotally in leading females to self-awareness and self-reliability.

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Muhammad Yunus

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The efforts made by Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Prize Winner 2006, and his NGOs are to be specifically mentioned. His initiative Grameen Bank turned the tables, literally. Grameen Bank, operational since the 1980s, extends out micro credits to the poor without collateral, paving the path for the upbringing of the rural population. From the beginning of the 21st Century demand for such loans rocketed up. The main principle of microcredit institutions was that loans are better than charity to interrupt poverty. No legal instrument was used by the institution. The system worked totally on trust which was protected throughout. 97 percent of Grameen Bank loans were funded to women, who had limited access to the traditional credit system. This figure itself shows the role of Muhammad Yunus in women’s empowerment and economic development.

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Captain of the cruising ship

In 2009, there was a turning point in the destiny of Bangladesh with the royal entry of Sheikh Hasina to Ganabhaban as Prime Minister, with a comfortable two-thirds majority. Since then, her ideologies and moves served as the base for the creation of a new Bangladesh, as promised. Even though a controversial figure for the democratic backsliding of the country, her leadership role in the‘ development miracle ’ of the economy is accepted even by her political rivals.

Hasina Government's economic policy since 2008 marked the powerful entry of Bangladesh into the geopolitical arena. Introduction of a one-stop service, and establishing the Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority and Bangladesh Investment Authority are the crucial steps are taken the creation of a business-friendly environment favorable for attracting Foreign Direct Investments.



The country is ours, we all have to build this country together

— Sheikh Hasina

Yet another vision of the Government was to improve regional connectivity and build healthy relationships with countries. Now, Bangladesh is playing a leading role in the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation, which groups together Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Nepal, and Bhutan in a forum for international cooperation. Hasina's Blue Economy policy, which aims at sustainable use of ocean resources for growth, is expected to further regional connectivity between neighboring countries to gain an edge over the South Asian trade sector.

Hasina government vigorously promoted women’s empowerment and the IT sector. The the number of women making their way to white-collar jobs, especially civil services, jumped up. Women entrepreneurs are growing. Many young women started to join the garments unit as the wage rate and work conditions improved. Relentless efforts on the part of the government made Bangladesh the IT hub of South Asia.



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Further over the last decade, the shortage of food supplies has become an old-age tale. Despite her draconian politics, Hasina's enormous contributions to the upbringing of the ‘least developed country' are praiseworthy. This makes her the longest striving Prime Minister of Bangladesh and one of the strongest woman figures in the global scenario.

Prospects

Bangladesh is moving to a high-value, knowledge-intensive society beyond apparel manufacturing. By 2030, 48 percent of the population will live in towns and cities. Rapid urbanization along with a rising Foreign Direct Investment will create a huge market. If this fast-paced growth continues economists predict that Bangladesh would be officially recognized as a developing country in 2026 and might become the 26th largest economy in 2030. Yet another optimistic prediction points out Bangladesh might become a developed country by 2040, provided this rapid development flows without disruptions.

GDP Growth

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Moral of the Tale

Bangladesh's victory is much beyond the old-age tale of an underdeveloped nation that storms to development defying the odds. It gives a crystal clear message to society. A country, with almost half of its population asleep, could never awake from the hell of acute poverty and hunger. Similarly, if the dejected sect of society behind the four walls breaks away from the cultural patriarchal shackles, a ‘miracle’ is inevitable.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Govind Panicker

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