ABSTRACT

In the last 50 years, Bangladesh has achieved remarkable progress on gender equality gains, starting from a lower base compared to other countries in the region. These include a rapid decline in gender disparities in school enrolment, a rising female labour force participation, a significant reduction in maternal mortality, and a strong numerical presence of women in parliament and local government. However, gender inequalities in some areas remain persistent – apparent in the high levels of child marriage and violence against women. This chapter provides a broad historical overview of the unevenness in change and examines the role played by national and interactional actors that created scope for women to participate in public life albeit within certain parameters. Despite advancements, restrictive social norms still limit women’s mobility, sexual autonomy, and presence as a collective group. This chapter focuses on how women as a collective group make demands for change and uses three case studies to explore the role of the women’s movement and their allies and the strength of their oppositional forces or veto players. It also examines – given the current economic and political shifts – whether Bangladesh will be able to sustain changes in the future.