Women's empowerment has certainly come quite a long way in Bangladesh. Even a cursory glance at the figures relating to women's advancement in the past two decades will testify to this truth. And yet the fact that a whole lot of distance yet needs to be covered by Bangladesh's women as well as women in other regions of Asia was highlighted once more at a discussion organised by Asian University for Women (AUW) on Friday.
The plain fact is that there needs to be more investment in women's education and training regarding the varied regions of life and experience. Interestingly, the meeting at AUW, which has just seen Mrs. Cherie Blair stepping in as its chancellor, brought together a number of eminent figures from around Asia and elsewhere to focus on this very issue. The results, we are happy to note, appear rather encouraging.
The AUW has properly focused on the crucial issue of why women matter in the changed perspectives in Asia today. The fact that it has students from as many as thirteen countries in Asia and outside it points to the critically important need for these countries to harness the abilities and intelligence of their women populations if they mean to come level with more developed parts of the world.
It is our view that the AUW can, in light of the deliberations on Friday, play a leading role in forming a nucleus programme relating to studies of women's contributions to national development in their countries. Such an approach is now a necessity considering that for all the progress they have made, women in Asia still come up against various hurdles.
There is, for instance, the rude reality of very few women occupying decision-making positions in Asian countries even though they may be on relatively higher perches in government and non-government sectors. There is too the matter of how significant the presence of women happens to be in politics, especially in parliament.
Obviously, there has been a good increase in women's representation in legislatures, but much of this increase has come through a quota system. That is not bad at all, but it is quite something else for women to engage themselves in politics in the way men have, through participating in competitive, enlightened politics.
The AUW seminar thus throws up some ideas that can be worked on in the coming weeks and months. That Asia is today on its way to being a powerhouse cannot be denied. The twenty-first century, to all intents and purposes, ought to be an Asian century. Given that reality, it is only proper that Asian women blaze a trail that will be followed by those who come after them, within Asia and elsewhere around the globe.