By Minhazur Rahman Rezvi
'Leaving no one behind' is the dictum for building an inclusive and sustainable society. When only the powerful, rich and capable persons enjoy the facilities and social, political and economical opportunities, that can not be called an inclusive society.
An inclusive society is a society where every person enjoys equal and equitable access to every opportunity irrespective of being poor, female, disabled person or child. Every development project should focus on ensuring equal participation of everybody in society.
In case of Bangladesh, it is time to start moving towards building an inclusive society for ensuring sustainable development. Bangladesh has to overcome several obstacles before starting to move towards an inclusive society.
Poverty is one of the major obstacles on the way to an inclusive society. According to the Household Income & Expenditure Survey (HIES) in 2016, 23.2 per cent of the people in Bangladesh live under the national poverty line and 12.9 per cent exist in extreme poverty. The main reason behind this uncontrolled poverty rate is inequitable distribution of income and high income gap between poor and rich or owners of industries and the labourers.
The lion's share of the national income is confined among 20 per cent of the population of the South Asian country. In 2016, Bangladesh's Gini index -- a measurement of the income distribution of a country's residents -- was 0.39. In 2014, it was only 0.31. The Gini index ratio is increasing in Bangladesh which indicates that the income gap is increasing in society. The increasing inequitable distribution of income in the country is the reason for uncontrolled poverty rate.
On the other hand, high rate of unemployment and urban-centred development activities are responsible for the uncontrolled poverty rate. Rural people are deprived of opportunities like employment and technological advancement because of urban-centred development activities.
Ensuring gender-equality is important for building an inclusive society. In Bangladesh, gender inequality still exists in every sector. Women and girls are deprived of political, social and economic rights and opportunities because of religious and social restrictions and blind superstitions.
Although the female ratio at primary level of education is high as compared to males, the ratio of female students gets decreased gradually in secondary and tertiary level of education because of high rate of dropouts. Social restrictions, blind superstitions, poverty and early marriage -- all these are behind the increasing dropout rate.
According to the Gender Inequality Index (GII) 2016, Bangladesh has the top place among SAARC nations. It is not enough for Bangladesh because life security of females is still vulnerable. Ensuring security of females is the fundamental condition of ensuring gender-equality. But at present, 'security' is elusive for women and for society in Bangladesh.
Every day, women and girls are victims of sexual harassment and rape. According to Bangladesh Mohila Parishad statistics-2016, a total of 1,050 women and girls were raped and 44 women were killed after rape. With proper application of law against the crime lacking, criminals easily escape after the crime and feel encouraged to indulge in more crime. Rape has become an epidemic for society now and the incidence of rape is increasing day by day in the country. The government should give more educational, social, economic and political facilities to females for alleviating gender inequality along with strong security.
In Bangladesh, 10 per cent of the total population are disabled and are the most neglected in society. They are always deprived of educational and social opportunities and dignity; often they are not able to fulfill their basic needs even.
The 'Protection of the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities Act, 2013' was passed with a view to ensuring the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities. In practicality, we do not notice proper application of this law. Disabled persons are like an organ of body for a country. If any country wants to move forward in building an inclusive society, the government has to take the disabled along by giving them equal and equitable rights and dignity.
Ensuring participation and equity in all sectors is the basic characteristic of an inclusive society. If the Bangladesh government wants to make an inclusive society, it has to give priority ensuring the basic characteristics of inclusive society. Equal participation in decision making is important for ensuring effective and efficient result of development projects.
But in Bangladesh, participatory decision-making system has low accessibility of participation. In most cases, the poor and females have little opportunity to participate in decision-making. Illegal power exercising, social and economical negligence and gender inequality -- all these problems create barrier in participatory decision-making in all sector.
The government should take effective and efficient steps to overcome these obstacles in participatory decision-making and increase equal participation of all sections of society in Bangladesh. The government has to follow participatory development approaches to ensuring more equal participation of local people.
Ensuring equity in all sectors of the country is the second step to building an inclusive society. To establish equity in all sections of society, the government has to give more priority to ensuring equitable distribution of income, gender-equality, and equal facilities for poor and also equal and equitable opportunities for persons with disabilities to build an inclusive society.
According to former US President Franklin D. Roosevelt: "We are trying to construct a more inclusive society. We are going to make a country in which no one is left out".
The government, too, should start moving towards building a more inclusive society to make a new Bangladesh.
(The author is studying for Bachelor in Social Sciences (BSS) degree in Development Studies at Dhaka University, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Comments and suggestions on this article can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org)