Scientific Publication

The role of gender in economic activities with special reference to women's participation and empowerment in rural Bangladesh


Bangladesh is known as a predominantly male-dominated society with traditional and religious beliefs that restrict women’s mobility and participation in economic and social activities. This article is based on national rural representative household-level data collected in 1987 and 2000 from 62 villages in Bangladesh jointly conducted by the International Rice Research Institute and Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies. First, this article depicts patterns of women’s work and analyzes the factors that influence the gender division of labor. Second, a women empowerment index is developed from the 2000 survey data on intra-household decision-making in different spheres, and its relationship with women’s work is then explored. The persistent gender division of labor in rural Bangladesh has been found to be associated with both economic and socio-cultural factors. Rural economic activities within the household were found to have a weak impact on women’s empowerment. The major policy implications emerging from the study are (1) enabling and improving the quality of women’s education is necessary to increase their participation in marketing activities, for which the gender disparity in earnings is less; and (2) developing desirable social and institutional infrastructures that enable women’s mobility outside the home to participate in economic and social activities, and reduce the burden of their domestic work