1. Background of the Study
Bangladesh is known as one of the developing countries in the world. With a per capita income of US$ 750, an estimated 49.8 percent of its population is living below the national poverty line and 41.3 percent are living in absolute poverty earning US$ 1 per day or less (UNDP, 2007). It is highly populated country having about 146 million. Female population constituted 74.4 million of the total population. There is a great deal of gender discrimination, subordination and subjugation in every sphere of life. From their childhood, women are neglected in food sharing, education, work, freedom of choice, right to property and decision making aspect. Over the last decade, both government and non government organization have taken many initiatives and enacted several legislative measures in favour of upgrading women’s status basically empowering women.
In Bangladesh, women constitute about half of the total population of which 80 percent live in rural areas (BBS, 2006). But their status has been ranked the lowest in the world on the basis of twenty indicators related to health, marriage, children, education, employment and social equality. It is a well established fact that in a patriarchal society like Bangladesh, women are ascribed a lower status than men who have the sovereign power to control households and society as a whole, while women are often secluded in their homes (Balk, 1997). The World Bank study in Bangladesh highlights that women have limited role in household decision-making, limited access and control over household resources (physical and financial assets), low level of individual assets, heavy domestic workloads, restricted mobility and inadequate knowledge and skills that leading to women’s vulnerability (Sebstad and Cohen 2002: 44).
2. Empowerment of Rural Women within the Context of Globalization Rural women play a critical role in agricultural production and in the rural economies of developing countries. In the developing world as a whole, agriculture accounted for about 63 per cent of total female employment in 1997 and it is still the most important sector for female employment in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. Rural women make major and multiple contributions to the achievement of food security and produce more than half of the food grown worldwide. In sub-Saharan Africa this figure is higher, with women contributing 60 to 80 per cent of the labour in food production both for household consumption and for sale. In Asia, women do 50 to 90 per cent of the work in the rice fields. Women diversify and perform multiple tasks simultaneously to sustain their livelihoods, working on farms and engaging in off-farm activities, as well as continuing their critical role in terms of reproduction. Their responsibilities include the collection of water and fuel, activities that are particularly burdensome in areas with a poor social infrastructure (Olumakaiy and Ajavi, 2006).
Women must not only have equal rights, capabilities and access to resources and opportunities, but they must also have the agency to use those rights, capabilities, resources and opportunities to make strategic choices. Empowerment of women in rural areas is dependent on several factors, including ownership and control over land; access to diverse types of employment and income-generating activities, access to public goods (such as water, village recreational area and forests), infrastructure, education and training, health care and financial services and markets; and opportunities for participation in political life and in the design and implementation of policies and programmes.
i. Land and Property Rights
Despite efforts to diversify, most households in rural areas still depend on land and natural resources for their basic subsistence. Without secure land rights, farmers have little or no access to credit, rural organizations, irrigation systems and other...