Date of Award

Spring 2008

Document Type

Thesis

Department

Sociology and Anthropology

Abstract

There are three main development issues that Bangladesh struggles with today. They are education, poverty, and women's inequality. The state of these issues has a significant impact on the country's overall condition. Since the country is currently underdeveloped, it is clear that these issues are in need of improvement. With a substandard education system, Bangladeshis must resort to careers that do not require a degree in higher-level education, such as agricultural or vocational work, which do not have promising futures. They end up working long hours, which leaves little time for education. In addition, most agricultural workers must deal with frequent flooding of their farmland, since Bangladesh is comprised of a large delta that cuts deep into the country. If agricultural workers are unable to make a decent income, they must live in poverty. Therefore, the loss of crops due to flooding is a severe economic problem. Bangladeshi women suffer most from poverty. For a very long time there have been extreme gender biases toward women. Such biases cause parents to neglect girls from birth on. Girls do not receive adequate healthcare from a young age and parents do not invest in their education. Without a decent education, girls consequently marry at a young age and turn to agriculture for income. If the education sector could receive more funding from the government and the drop-out rate of primary schools could be reduced, more Bangladeshis could receive a sufficient education, leading to higher-salary careers. If Bangladeshis were able to make more money for a family, and the country, then poverty levels would decrease. Women could also play an important role in poverty reduction. In the past, Bangladeshi women were not recognized for their abilities and were denied the right to participate in the economic role of the family, except for agricultural work. However, if women could also receive a satisfactory education and improve the opportunities of future occupations, they could provide a significant contribution to the family's income, and the country's income indirectly. I have discovered that these three issues of education, poverty, and gender inequality are inter-dependent. Therefore, if improvements are made in one of these areas, it could have a positive impact on the two other issues. If the education sector could be improved, more people in the country would have the possibility of obtaining better occupations and earning a higher salary than with agricultural work, which would improve the poverty levels. If women are able to receive a proper education, they would also have the chance for a better career. Women could then contribute to the family's income as well as improve the country's economy. Therefore, a circular pattern is observed. Since each issue has such a significant connection to the others, it is difficult to pick which one to focus on first. For this reason, their connection would not be explained well in a linear diagram, but instead a circular fashion. In a circular pattern, one cannot tell where the cause of the problems begins, but instead sees that each issue causes problems or improvements in the others. I therefore devised a circular diagram to show how they affect each other. It is important to focus on these issues and the effects they have on the development process of Bangladesh if progress is the goal. If the government can contribute a higher percentage of their budget toward education, then poverty levels will decrease. Poverty levels could decrease further with the monetary contribution of educated and employed women. My goal for this paper is to show how Bangladesh's poverty levels, education system and gender inequality issues are inter-related and how improving one of these issues will have a direct positive impact on the other two. I will show that it is not important to start with one part of the circle; no matter which issue one starts with, improvement in that area will bring positive results in the other two related areas. First, I will explain the circle diagram in detail and then discuss the severe levels of poverty, how it is related to education and gender issues, and how it decreases with improvements in these two areas. I will show that if poverty levels are alleviated, there will be more funding for the education system, and in turn, better treatment toward women. Second, I investigate how women have been denied the right to an education in the past, and how this has had a negative impact on the country's economy. I will show that if women receive equal rights, their contribution to the economy will help to alleviate poverty, and their roles as economic and political leaders could help improve the education system. Lastly, I address the problem of education, how it is related to the issues of poverty and how the level of education affects women. I will discuss the fact that if the education system is improved, poverty levels will decrease and women will gain the recognition they deserve. Then, I will show how focusing on improving the education system seems to be the most efficient and effective issues with which to start. Later, I discuss what is currently being done to improve the current condition of Bangladesh. I will mention many government and non-governmental organization (NGO) work that has been in effect and what their goals are for improving the development problems. Then, I will explain why Bangladesh continues to suffer from extreme poverty, a poor education system, and gender inequality and how these programs are failing to achieve their goals. I will conclude with what needs to be done to help Bangladesh successfully improve its current deprived state.

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