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Readers' Opinion

Today’s Bangladesh- successes and achievements of a new nation devastated by war, famine and ill-governance.

Monday July 18 2005 14:51:53 PM BDT

Zainal Abedin from Bangladesh

It has become a fashion for a section of Indian and Western journalists and
researchers to paint a gloomy picture of Bangladesh. They would not simply look at
the successes and achievements of a new nation devastated by war, famine and

Let me put forward some facts in simple terms for their information:

*Bangladesh has been consistently logging an annual economic growth of over five

* She has attained universal immunisation against a number of diseases at a rate
higher than most in the developing world;

* Bangladesh has acceded to eleven UN and international anti-terrorism Conventions
and Protocols;

* She has one of the highest primary school enrolment rates in the developing world,
including enrolment of poor children;

* Bangladesh has achieved gender parity in enrolment at the primary and lower
secondary levels;

* She has the highest density of private universities in the region;

* Infant mortality has been cut in half over the last two decades;
* Bangladesh has reduced population growth at an unprecedented speed in recorded
history and currently at 1.5 percent per year; the rate is well below that of India
and Pakistan.

* Total fertility has dropped from 6.3 to 3.3 births per woman over the last two
decades, and the average number of desired births per woman is 2.3.

* Bangladesh is undergoing a demographic transition at a low income level without
resorting to coercive measures.

*The total number of women micro credit borrowers has reached 12 million, with a
total micro credit debt of $ 1.2 billion (2.4 percent of the GDP) and a loan
repayment rate of above 90 percent. These loans have helped to empower women and
their decision making in the family and community.

The World Economic Forum recently published a report on “Women’s Empowerment:
Measuring the Global Gender Gap.” This study placed Bangladesh in the 39th position,
notably ahead of more developed countries like Italy, South Korea, Malaysia and
Thailand and on top of all Muslim countries surveyed. On a scale of 7, (where Sweden
scored the highest, i.e. 5.53) Bangladesh scored 3.75, trailing Japan by only 0.1
points. Other countries in South Asia, including India (53rd) and Pakistan (56th)
are distant followers.

Democracy and women’s empowerment are two vital elements that restrict the breeding
of extremism and discrimination in a society. Had Bangladesh been a land of social,
racial of religious discriminations, all these developments could not have been
achieved. Bangladesh is a liberal society with a free press, a vocal opposition and
a vibrant civil society.

All one has to do to check these facts with an open mind.
Bangladesh is the only country in the world where people have elected women leaders
to run the government in four consecutive general elections.

Zainal Abedin from Bangladesh


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