PDF Women’s Political Participation in Bangladesh: Institutional Reforms, Actors and Outcomes

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In addition, women will feel truly represented and recognized in the democratic pro- cess only if more women are elected. To ensure justice in a society, it is crucial for women to take part in the political system. Women possess diverse knowledge and resources to fetch into politics. Therefore, a political system which does not make use of both genders experiences and resources is incomplete, as it never can maximize use of all available inputs.

Civil Society, Health, and Social Exclusion in Bangladesh

Each gender needs separate political attention since each carries out unique tasks and survives in different financial and social circumstances. Moreover, they are mainly accountable for population and mater- nal services. In fact, they can be major performers in endors- ing gender-responsive governance that tackles the concerns of both genders and in augmenting the access and power over local resources equally IPU Changing the political system. It is believed that the political system can be changed only if more women enter politics.

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Therefore, having more women in government may have noteworthy advantages for the society in general. Moreover, participation can be viewed using the dimension of the powerful and powerless modes of representation. According to the proponents of this dimension, people act together with political organizations on a regular basis. Dewey and Pateman stated that people must be socialized into these organizations to develop a democratic attitude.

This socialization process coincides with active political participation, which helps them learn democratic attitudes and skills through practice. Thus, a certain policy will not be as effec- tive if it lacks representation from half of the total population. Also from this argu- ment, it is essential that women should participate in the decision-making process for the sake of democracy and good governance. It has been widely advocate in various international symposia, that women should participate in political decision making to ensure equality, democracy, and legitimacy.

Also, this should be done to achieve a translucent and answerable government and administration, and sustainable development in all areas of life Evertzen There are different interpretations of empowerment in the analytical world and in practice. Thus, sometimes it differs in meaning and understanding even within one organization. Friedmann asserted that empowerment brings social mobilization, brings changes in the state of the mind of women and helps in gain- ing access to the bases of social power.

Alsop et al. Morgen and Bookman asserted that the process of empower- ment starts when women start to realize the causes of their powerlessness, identify factors that oppress them and do something to bring changes in the conditions of their lives. Karl viewed empowerment as a continuum of several interrelated and mutually rein- forcing components which include i awareness building, ii capacity building, iii participation, and iv action. In analyzing the literature on empowerment, Rowlands has suggested four classifications of power. Response to it can be compliance, resistance, or manip- ulation.

Based on the above discussions, it can be said that empowerment is the pro- cess of increasing the capacity of individuals or groups to make choices and to transform those choices into desired actions and outcomes. Central to this pro- cess are actions which both build individual and collective assets, and improve the efficiency and fairness of the organizational and institutional context which gov- ern the use of these assets. It is important to mention here that empowerment is not a single dimensional concept: rather it is a multi-dimensional concept which includes political, social, cultural, and so on.

Based on frameworks developed by various scholars, Malhotra et al. They asserted that these dimensions are very broad in scope, and within each dimension there is a range of subdomains within which women may be empowered. Thus, they have opera- tionalized each dimension from household, community, and broader perspectives which can be found in Table 2. Capacity Building and skills development, especially ability to plan, make decisions, organize, and manage and carry out activities, to deal with people and institu- tions in the world around them.


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Participation and greater control and decision-making power in the home, community, and society. Although Malhotra et al. As a matter of fact, women members of UPs receive an honorarium per month and they are required to be involved in societal affairs as part of their capacity as repre- sentatives of the people. Thus, these two concepts have close linkage with political participation of women. Considering different perspectives and indicators provided by Malhotra et al.

These describe the economic freedom and social liberty that these women enjoy after being elected as UP members, as well as their involvement in the political process of the UP. Indicators through which economic sovereignty of the women members have been discussed are: i freedom to spend money and ii role in family decision mak- ing.

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Societal freedom of women members has been explained through different indicators like: i societal acceptance, ii constraints from religious fundamental- ism, iii use of purdah, iv freedom of movement, v access of the general pub- lic to the women members, vi incidents of fatwa, vii education and access to information, viii participation in nonfamily group activities and NGOs, and ix changes in attitude. Finally, involvement of the women members in the political process has been explained through indicators like: i perception of women mem- bers regarding their new roles, ii working environment of the UP, iii project distribution, iv committees of the UP, v women members in Party politics, and vi participation in the UP decision making.

Changes and transformations, promises and prospects, as well as hopes and oppor- tunities are reflected through reforms in governmental action. However, the prom- ised expectations may not always be attained through reforms due to a variety of pranabpanday yahoo. Reforms may be explained by three broad approaches which include i top-down elitist reforms, ii bottom-up reforms, and iii institu- tional and cultural reforms. Top-down elitist reforms refer to an approach in which the top leadership ini- tiates the reform, and their main responsibilities are to detect problems, identify needs, and develop issues.

The top leadership is perceived as knowledgeable about the whole organization, which permits it to initiate reforms and changes Peters ; Farazmand b, As such, the external pressure for change may influence the responses of leadership in three possible scenarios. First, the leadership may adopt changes and demands coming from the environment. This can be done by allowing the majority to partake in the decision making and implementation process by ini- tiating reforms and changes. The second response would be a reactive and passive approach toward external pressure, where the leadership adopts as few demands as possible.

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Lastly, the third one involves the taking over of the entire leadership system as a consequence for the unwillingness of the leadership to initiate reform Farazmand The third and last approach is the institutional and cultural approach. It is con- sidered as one of the most comprehensive models in initiating change and reform, since it combines the advantages of both top-down and bottom-up approaches. In this line, more attention is given to structure, process, and values.

Actually, bring- ing change in the structure is not at all difficult since it is done by the top-down approach, while change can be brought out by the bottom-up approach. Here, the people are not threatened during the course of promoting the understanding of reforms and changes, as well as their implementation. Moreover, the third dimen- sion involves value and cultural elements where the institutions, environments, organizations, system of governments, and society are imbedded.

Thus, it is con- sidered as the most comprehensive model in pursuing reforms and changes for details, Farazmand a and Regarding the issue of greater political participation for women, reform is an important mechanism given the fact that women are underprivileged compared with men in all societies worldwide. Even their status is much more vulnerable in countries like Bangladesh, where they suffer from male domination and patriar- chy along with other social and cultural impediments Halder ; Chowdhury Besides, most institutions are designed in a way that is unaccommodating for women who are taking part in it.

Therefore, such circumstances have brought the issue of reforms into the spotlight. However, it is certainly difficult for them to win an election when contesting against a male candidate due to patriarchal domination and the existence of mastan culture and availability of illegal arms Rahman This Act has opened an ave- nue for women to take part in the local government decision-making process in a larger numbers than ever before.

Currently, an empirical question is being asked: on which conditions did the local government reform take place? Two decades ago, Esman and Uphoff stated that national governments and society elites are usually apathetic to the idea of initiating reforms to devolve power. Another study, on democratic transitions in Africa, concluded that, even if there has been significant democratization in some important dimensions, administrative devolution and local government reform are usually not among the top priorities under the agenda of elites Charlick et al.

These points signify that institutional structure reforms in local government do not automatically take place.


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Actually, the reform process has to be steered by some actors, and the result of such interactions is the opening of a new win- dow which facilitates the enactment of reforms. Now, the next question is: which Bangladeshi organizations influenced and to what extent the reform that brought about the changes in the local government structure? In the following section, the actors in the reform process have been identified, and their networks have been discussed. Actually, actors like the government, political parties, WOs, non- governmental organizations, donors, and different international conventions were involved in the process of enactment of the reform.

In the following section, each actor has been discussed for operationalization. This group of people is used by the politicians for winning elections, influencing local people, and threatening their oppositions. The executive, also referred to as the cabinet or the government, is the most important actor in a policy subsystem of any country. The executive holds the ultimate authority to make and implement policies despite the involvement of other actors in the process. This ultimate authority is derived from the constitution, which also provides the State the power to govern the coun- try.

Since there are only few mechanisms that exert control over the executive in a parliamentary system, executives exercise absolute power, because they enjoy majority support in the Parliament. However, the situation is somehow different in a republican or presidential system, where the president often faces difficulty to convince the legislature to approve its measures Howlett and Ramesh Provided that privileged classes and groups inherit political power, any opportunities for women are possible only through the benevolence of the state.

Although 45 seats in the national parliament have been reserved for them, the direct election system has not been introduced in the Parliament yet. It is interesting to know why policymakers still restrict the introduction of direct elec- tion of women only to the local level.

This means that the reform- ers will allow women to exercise their rights up to certain level from where they women will not be able to challenge the power structure of policymakers. In fact, several women related issues have been nurtured well in emerging democ- racies. Generally, countries that experience a transition from authoritarian to demo- cratic consider gender-specific demands. For instance, despite being one of the poorest nations in the world, Mozambique achieved a remark- able improvement in the field of female legislative representation, as compared to many pranabpanday yahoo.

Besides Mozambique, greater female represen- tation in Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa, and several other African countries have been accounted for due to the initiation of party quotas and reserved seats Tripp Like developing countries, numerous women movements also gained momentum through the process of democratization in newly industrialized countries.

Since then, the democratization of local government units, along with enhanced women participation in political processes, has become an issue of concern for the government. Conversely, an attempt has also been made to discover why the earlier government the BNP government did not enact any reforms of such kind.


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  • Hence, Parties are the real gatekeepers to elective office Norris and Lovenuski , Norris , since they are responsible for the recruitment, selection, and election of candidates Pitre Moreover, initiatives can take the form of quotas, tar- get numbers, or affirmative action measures Pitre Meanwhile, the other two aspects are institutionalization5 and the location of candidate nomi- 5 The degree of institutionalization determines the nature of the process by which MPs are recruited. Thus, a high degree of institutionalization denotes a more rule-oriented process Norris and Lovenduski In fact, highly institutionalized parties provide potential MPs, especially those without ties to the power center, with a set of understandable rules.

    Czudnowski stated that the more institutionalized the selection process, the easier it is for any outsider to understand how the selection process works. In addition, party leaders have less leeway to bend the rules in favor of certain candidates under institutionalization.

    women representation in political parties

    Thus, being newcomers to parties, women may have fewer resources and might find it more difficult to catch up with established men. The leader can create opportunities for women when a party is highly centralized. Thus, it is considered to be a matter of having the will to promote female candidates.