Women Administration in Bangladesh


Bangladesh bears a colonial legacy in its entire women administration system.After independence, Bangladesh has made significant progress in the employment of women and several policy decisions have been taken to strengthen the status of women. Though governmental efforts are praiseworthy the impact accrued to women in general are not very good. Employment opportunities for men and women are not equal. The present study carried out in Five ministers(Including Prime Minister,Foreign Affairs,Home Affairs) & opposition Leader are women working for the Highly administrative value. It is a study to assess the Administration situation of women prevailing in different ministries of the Government of Bangladesh as well as to derive a picture about the aspirations, satisfaction and motivation with regard to Administration situation.

 [Study of Women in Administration: A Situational Analysis- Shanta Kohli Chandra, Radha, 1997, xiii, 231 p]

Women constitute nearly half of the total population and half of its potential. Therefore, Socio-economic development cannot be truly achieved without the active participation of women at the decision making level in society. Women are left behind economically, socially and culturally in our tradition bound Bangladesh society. To ensure the participation of women in all spheres of life, all sorts of facilities and opportunities are to be provided to them.

 In Bangladesh over the last three decades emphasis has been given on ensuring gender equality and mainstreaming gender issues through various policies and strategies to ensure employment of women in various professions. The government is a major employer in Bangladesh. Thus appointment of women in Bangladesh Civil Service (BCS) and their inclusion in different cadres is very significant and special consideration from various perspectives. The Government of Bangladesh (GOB) has taken some policy decisions and special measures to ensure equitable female participation in the civil service. A quota system was introduced to increase the presence of women in the government employment sector. Yet women participation in government services has not reached a satisfactory level. The total strength of female in government service is 10 percent and only 8 percent in both class I and class II posts

(Kashem et.al., 2002:35).

The United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in 1997 pointed out in detail the meaning of gender mainstreaming:

It is a process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies or programmers, in any area at all levels. It is a strategy for making the concerns and experiences of women as well as of men an integral part of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmers in all political, economic and societal affairs so that women and men benefit equally.

 [The ultimate goal of mainstreaming is to achieve gender    equality (ECOSOC, 1997:2, cited in khan, 2005: 256).]

Constitutional Guarantees for Equal Job Opportunity:

     The constitution of Bangladesh has ensured equal employment rights and opportunities to females as their male counterparts.

Article-29 of the constitution states-There shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in respect of employment or office in the service of the Republic. No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth be ineligible for, or discriminated against in respect of any employment or office in the service of the Republic. Nothing in this Article shall prevent the state from, making special provisions, in favor of any backward section of citizens for the purpose of securing their adequate representation in the service of the Republic.

Quota System in BCS:

     In case of direct recruitment, the government has introduced the quota system. After independence, the government found that, in the public service not only women, but ethnic, religious groups and some of the regions were under represented. The constitution, as a result, indicated its faith in the broad tenets of Equal Employment Opportunity, which were to govern the recruitment and selection of public personnel (Zafarullah and Khan, 1989:82).

In fact, recognizing the urgency of the problem the government adopted quotas (reservation of posts) which was reflected in the Interim Recruitment Policy of 1972 and is still followed by the government with various modifications from time to time. This was designed to achieve greater equity in the representation of all regions and groups in civil service by reservation     of positions and giving preference to certain sections of the population(Zafarullah and Khan, 1998:83).

 The following  table shows the present quota distribution in BCS.

Table . Administration of quota System

Distribution of vacanciesGazetted Posts(Class I &

Class II)

Non GazettedPosts (Class I &

Class II)

Wards of Freedom Fighters30%30%
Tribal People05%05%
Ansar and VDP10%

 Source : Ministry of Establishment, GOB (1995)

Government Policies Regarding Women Employment:

The GOB has declared the National Policy for the Advancement of Women (NPAW) on 8 March, 1997. It has addressed 14 different and relevant issues where employment and administrative empowerment of women were given special emphasis. With a view to create employment opportunities for the women, the following measures were suggested.

– Increase efforts to employ all educated and uneducated females.

– Increase female quotas and ensure its effective implementation in all spheres.

– Motivate all appointing authorities to follow government quotas and to provide equal facilities for females under the purview of government employment policy.

– Create congenial atmosphere to sustain the entry of females in the job market in greater numbers, their continuation and advancement there on.

(GOB, 1998).

Women in Administration

10% quotation for Gazette, 15% quota for non-gazette posts and 60% quota for women in primary teachers recruitment were reservedQuota Continued

Women in Civil Service

(Deputy Secretary and above)

Secretary ——————–  01

Additional Secretary ——– 01

Joint Secretary ————–  03

Deputy Secretary ———— 06

Total            11

Women in Civil Service

(Deputy Secretary and above)

Secretary ——————–  01

Additional Secretary ——- 00

Joint Secretary ————–  03

Deputy Secretary ———— 24


Total            28

Provision introduced for recruitment of women in 10% senior positions by Honorable President.


Women in Field Administration


Male  – Female

994 – 28

 Source: Computer Centre, Ministry of Establishment, May 2002

 For the administrative empowerment of women:

– Make provisions for contracts and lateral entry to facilitate female access to government service in the higher levels of administrative structure.

– Appoint females to the higher positions of Judiciary,

University Grants Commission, Ambassadors, State Representatives in different United Nations Bodies and other International Organizations.

– Continue the quota system and increase the quota at all levels.

– Increase efforts for achieving a 30 per cent female population at all levels of decision making, including policy level post

(GOB, 1998).

 Participation and representation of women in politics:

The overall development of a country depends upon the maximum utilization of her people, both men and women. In Bangladesh women comprise nearly half of the total population. But the status of women is much lower than that of men in every sphere of life. Women are identified with domestic life while politics is viewed as a male-dominated public activity that is typically masculine in nature. With the advancement of time, development, the national development cannot be the fact has now been recognized that without ensuring women achieved.

Women’s equal participation in political life plays a pivotal role in the general process of the advancement of women. It is not only a demand for simple justice or democracy but can also be seen as a necessary condition for women’s interests to be taken into account. Without the active participation of women and the incorporation of women’s perspective at all levels of decision-making, the goals of equality, development and peace cannot be achieved. (FWCW,1995:1) Systematic integration of women augments the democratic basis, the efficiency and the quality of the activities of local government. If local government is to meet the needs of both women and men, it must build on the experiences of both women and men, through an equal representation at all levels and in all fields of decision-making, covering the wide range of responsibilities of local governments.

Women’s role in decision-making is one of the most important questions for consideration in the movement for their empowerment. Keeping in mind, the importance of women’s participation in decision-making, like the other government in the world, the government of Bangladesh has initiated efforts to widen the scope of women for participation in the development process. The Local Government (Union Parishad) Second Amendment Act 1997 of Bangladesh is a mile stone towards ensuring women’s equal access and increased participation in political power structures. This amendment provided for direct elections to reserved seats for women in local level elections. As a strategy of affirmative action for providing the structural framework for women’s participation in political decision-making and provided an opportunity to bring women to the center of local development and develop new grass-roots level leadership.

This paper is an attempt to explore the status of women’s participation and how their participation in local government lead to empowerment in local government in Bangladesh particularly the Union Parishad and will identify the factors that hinder women’s participation. At the same time this paper will suggest some remedial measures to uplift this situation.

Women in Decision Making Level

Women Candidate in the Parliament Election1.5% (1991)1.3% (1996)2.0%
Reserved Seat for Women30 (1991)30 (1996)   X
Total Successful Women Candidates06 (1991)07 (1996)   61.62%
Percentage of Women in the National Parliament10.06% (1991)11.21% (1996)2.00%
Women Participation at the Ministerial Level3%-8%(1991-96)3.3%(2002)


  • Bangladesh National report to the 4th World Conference on Women
  • Bangladesh Election Commission

Women’s Participation in Parliament Election

YearNo. of Seats

No. of Women Candidate


 Source: Bangladesh Election Commission

Women’s participation in urban local government:

Unit of Local Govt.1995


Union Parishad 3 reserved seats for women, nominated by the elected members and chairman

Provision of election for reserved seats introduced in 1997 and 12828 women members have been elected.

110 women were elected members 20 women were elected Chairman directly

22% members are female in Union Parishad

City Corporation20% of elected commissioners were reserved for womenElection held in 2002 for 30% women commissioner in reserved seats5 women elected Ward Commissioners directly in Dhaka City Corporation and 01 women elected in Rajshahi City Corporation including by-election till 11 July 2002

 Source: Bangladesh Country Paper to Special Session of the UN General Assembly Meeting June-2000 and City Corporation Election Result –2002, ECB.

Women Participation in the Union Parishad

Constitutional Provision:

The Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh recognizes basic and fundamental rights of the citizens irrespective of gender, creed, cast, religion and race. It also makes provision for promoting causes of the backward sections of the population (Ahmed et al, 2003:14).

Related articles of the constitution regarding women’s participation may be seen in the following sentences.

Article 9 :The State shall encourage local government institutions composed of representatives of the areas concerned and in such institutions special representation shall be given, as far as possible, to peasants, workers and women.

Article 10 : Steps shall be taken to ensure participation of women in all spheres of national life.

Article 19 (1): The State shall endeavor to ensure equality of opportunity to all citizens.

Article 27 : All citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law.

Article 28 (1): The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth

(2) : Women shall have equal rights with men in all spheres of the State and of public life.

(4) : Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making special provision in favor of women or children or for the advancement of any backward section of citizens (GOB,1993:9,13,19).

By incorporating the above articles, the constitution gives special attention to women in democracy and local government.

The nation puts no legislative barrier in the way of promoting gender equity in the sphere of social, political, and economic activities. The constitution gives guarantee of equal rights to women and also makes special provision for providing all necessary protections to backward sections of the society.

Institutional Arrangement for Women’s Participation:

The Local Government (Union Parishad) Second Amendment Act, 1997 is a milestone in the history of political empowerment of women in Bangladesh. The government of Bangladesh enacted this law for direct elections to reserve seats for women in local level elections.

In this act the government reserved three seats for women in the Union Parishad where women members were directly elected from each of the three wards. Apart from the reserved seats women can also contest for any of the general seats (ADB, 2001:15).

Scope of Elected Women’s Participation

Laws and Rules:

The Local Government (Union Parishad)

Ordinance 1983, provides the legal basis for the formation of the Union Parishad. But it did not contain any clause for the role power and responsibility of the women members. After the new law enacted in 1997, the government increased the number of standing committees set up by the Union Parishad from seven to twelve. At the same time the government instructed that women members should be president of at least twenty five percent of these standing committees. However, the terms of reference of these committees and their modus operandi were not clearly specified. Therefore, a sort of ambiguity persists with regard to the participation of women members in the Union Parishad activities. Moreover, government by another notification directed each Union Parishad to form Social Development Committees in each of the three female wards to be headed by the female member concerned.

 Male-Female Ratio:

Though the ordinance did not restrict women from contesting for the seats of general members as well as the chairman, the number of elected women members from the general seat can not be taken in to consideration. Therefore, the ratio of male-female members virtually remains almost 3:1

Obstacles to Women’s Participation in local Administration:

The elected women member’s participation in local government bodies remains generally insignificant, as they are not given any specific duties. The absence of operational guidelines and terms of reference for female elected representatives, the limited capacity of the female elected representatives to operate in public institutions of this nature, the lack of awareness over their roles and responsibilities, the systematic discrimination and biases by male elected colleaguesall these are seen as factors impeding women’s meaningful participation in local government (ADB, 2001:14).

Some of the major problems to women’s participation in local government include the following:

1. Albeit the constitution guaranteed the equal rights for women, the reality is that they are not seen as equal, their roles are closely tied to their reproductive and household activities only. At the same time women are considered as unfit to perform political and community affairs. This is due to lack of clarity in the constitution on the role of women in local government. A common complaint regarding women’s reserved seats is that the law does not specify what their roles and responsibilities are to be.

2. Patriarchy as a system, an ideology and practice impacts in different ways on the lives of women wherever they are Patriarchal attitudes become so embedded that they are taken as natural. Even where there is supposed equality, these attitudes tend to prevail. Socio- cultural norms and religious misinterpretations are used frequently for challenging and reinterpreting women’s rights and create insecurity for women. And although women have equal political rights to participate as voters and representatives, in reality they can be actively discouraged to do so. The patriarchal society enforces rules and laws in such way that affect the self-confidence of women, limit their access on resources and information and thus keep them in a lower status than men.

3. Education is the strongest factor influencing women’s control of their own fate. In Bangladesh women are furthermore handicapped because of lower educational achievements and the prevalence of social norms that severely restrict their freedom of movement in the public place. And so they do not show interest in participating in local government activities.

4. The male-biased environment within political institutions can deter women. The fact that there are few women on decision-making bodies means that these women have to work within styles and modes acceptable to men. As a result women cannot give attention to their issues.

Sometime they are treated by their colleagues and society harshly. Many-if not all-male elected members harbor negative attitude towards elected women members. They believe women should not run for general seats. They denigrate the value of the reserved seats. Lack of cooperation by men in the local government is a significant barrier to women’s effectiveness in decision-making.

5. The introduction of direct election to the reserved seats is undoubtedly a breakthrough for women in Bangladesh.

In no other way could these women have moved in to these institutions and participated in them. Still there is a gender imbalance in the ration of men and women in the Union Parishad. As a result the elected women members have very limited scope to influence decisions.


In Bangladesh, women have low political status as compared to men. The participation of women results from their low socioeconomic status stemming from social norms of a male dominated society confining women to the household. Their unequal status in society gives them unequal access to the educational, economic and other opportunities offered by the state and society. All these factors reinforce each other to keep women’s political participation low. But women’s adequate political participation is a precondition for bringing women in the mainstream of development process and thus empowers them.

No doubt, as a step of women empowerment, the elected reserve seats for women helps to promote participation and women access to the decision-making process numerically, though not practically much ensured. Due to socio-political and religious bindings, elected women cannot play their role and thus people’s aspiration and expectation to them were not met up. And without women’s access and meaningful participation in decision-making process that is the ability to influence decisions in favor of the women community. To ensure a meaningful participation of the elected women members as an essential step to empower them, the following policy prescriptions may be taken into consideration:

1. Roles and responsibilities of the women members should be clearly defined in the manuals and orders of local government. Work should be fairly distributed among the male and female members in such a way so that women member can meaningfully participate in all type of functions.

2. To create greater awareness among women about their low status in society and the need to improve it, motivational programs along with programs for expanding opportunities for education, health care and employment should be launched.

3. Specific programs should be undertaken by the government and non-government organizations in order to create an awareness among the women in the grass roots levels that political participation would give them an access to the political decision making process relating to the allocation of resources.

4. Mass media should be used to educate and mobilize public opinion in such a way that the realization about the benefits of women’s full participation in the national development efforts is created among people.

5. Priority must be given to monitoring the status, conditions and rights of women. There must be a sustained campaign for women mobilization, regular reporting of monitoring, public information and advocacy in this realm.

6. Women should be given various opportunities for leadership training, training regarding the activities of Union Parishad and education in order to encourage them to take up political and leadership position. Supportive services should be provided to allow women participate in these training courses.

7. There is urgent need to undertake research on women’s participation in politics, their voting behavior, consciousness and participation in the political parties.

8. Finally, in increasing the number of women in decision making positions does not in itself translate in to greater empowerment for women. Measures to increase the quantity of women representatives need to be accompanied by measures to improve the quality of participation.


Women have acquired a legitimate space in rural political institutions that can raise their marginalized position, though they are still a minority. Merely having women on councils does not automatically mean that the interests of women in the community are represented. Without women’s needs and interests being taken into account, without opportunity for them to participate in and influence decision-making, development interventions and planning sustainable results will not come Yet, having women in these leadership positions is an important step in changing the male-dominated political agenda. At least they have the opportunity to attend the meetings, interact with officials and take part in important discussions. It also ensures their mobility across the social hierarchy.