The government has approved National Women Development Policy (NWDP) 2011 with a provision of equal share of women in property and their opportunity in employment and business.

The approval came at the weekly cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday, a day before the International Women’s Day.

The policy is the revival of 1997 Women Development Policy, to the fulfilment of an election pledge by Awami League. The 1997 policy was formulated during the previous tenure of the party.

“The approval of the women development policy has created a great scope for the advancement of women empowerment,” Shirin Sharmin Chowdhury, state minister for women and children affairs, told The Daily Star after the meeting.

Asked whether the policy would contradict with the Muslim family law, the state minister said the NWDP is not a law and does not affect the inheritance laws.

The policy upholds the rights of all women irrespective of their religions, she added.

Shirin Sharmin also said they would draw a national action plan based on this policy which says, “Provide women with full control over their right to land, earned property, health, education, training, information, inheritance, credit, technology and opportunity to earn… And enact necessary new laws to put these rights into practice.”

The NWDP also reads “Ensure women’s rights in formulation and implementation of economic policies [for sectors like trade, currency and tax].”

Sources said the policy contains provisions for physically and mentally challenged women and those from the indigenous communities.

Last year, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said her government would, if necessary, amend or repeal laws that are harmful and discriminatory to women.

BNP-Jamaat in 2004 coalition government approved another women development policy deleting or replacing phrases like “equal right”, “equal and full participation”, “right to land”, “inheritance” and “property”, with “constitutional right”, “preference” and “greater participation”.

In 2008, the then caretaker government announced the Women Development Policy legalising women’s equal rights, including property rights, which were opposed by a section of Islamic clerics.

Meanwhile, a number of women’s organisations, activists, and intellectuals have welcomed the government for approving the NWDP.

Terming the policy consistent with the sprit of Liberation War and country’s constitution, former caretaker government adviser Sultana Kamal demanded immediate implementation of the policy.

Karmojibi Nari, Steps Towards Development and Nagorik Uddyog, among others, echoed Sultana Kamal’s opinion.

Asked about the NWDP, khatib of Baitul Mukarram National Mosque, Maulana Muhammad Salahuddin Ahmed, told The Daily Star that he would comment on the matter after studying the policy.

Meanwhile, on the eve of the International Women’s Day, President Zillur Rahman and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, in separate messages, have called upon all to defend women’s rights.

The president said this year’s women’s Day theme Equal access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women is very much relevant today.

The prime minister said the government is firmly committed to the women’s development and drew an action plan for their uplift.

Source: The Daily Star – 08.03.2011