Bangladesh has made some remarkable strides in development and poverty reduction since independence, despite generally weak governance. This 'Bangladesh paradox' has been discussed by UNU-WIDER Research Associate Lucy Scott, now at ODI (see part one and Part of the Bangladesh paradox is the strong presence of prominent women in national politics, despite women's generally unequal position in society. For instance, the quota for women in parliament was raised to 50 out of 350 in 2011, but the actual number is higher. That means that 20% of the seats belong to women, which is much more than in most developing countries but less than the often quoted critical mass of 30% set by the follow up to the Beijing Platform for Action. And it should be noted that the majority of people in the country living on US$1 a day are women.
Recently the UNU-WIDER communications specialist Carl-Gustav Linden had the opportunity to ask one these prominent women what does it takes to be a female politician in the country. Dr Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury is the current, and first ever, woman, Speaker of the Parliament of Bangladesh, having previously served as the State Minister of the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs. Dr Chaudhury, of the ruling Awami (Bangladesh People's) League, has been a practicing lawyer for many years. Having been awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship, she gained her PhD in constitutional law in 2000 from the University of Essex, UK. She has conducted many human rights cases involving constitutional issues.
Dr Chaudhury was also one of the members of the lawyers' panel in the cases filed against Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in 2008-09.
Here are some excerpts from that interview, which was conducted during the ReCom results meeting 'Aid for Gender Equality' in Copenhagen on 16 December, 2013.
What is it like to be a female politician in Bangladesh?
'A female politician in Bangladesh sends out a very positive and profound message throughout the globe about the political empowerment of women. And being elected as the first woman Speaker of Bangladesh was the major breakthrough. And it is not an uncommon thing in Bangladesh because we have our honorable Prime Minister who is a woman, the Leader of the Opposition and former Prime Minister a woman, the Deputy Leader of the House is a woman, and now a woman Speaker. So the four very important and key positions in the House of Representatives, the Parliament are held by women at the moment, which is...