UN Women USA Annual Meeting Features UN Women Bangladesh Program

Women migrant workers returning home are greeted by UN Women Bangladesh team
UN Women USA held its Annual Meeting on 22 October 2020 by zoom. The main feature was a pre-recorded interview with Ms. Shoko Ishikawa, Country Representative of UN Women Bangladesh by Mary Luke, board member.

Ms. Ishikawa spoke about UN Women’s program priorities which focus on addressing gender- based violence; economic empowerment of women; women’s political leadership and participation, and response to humanitarian and climate crisis. Key challenges facing women and girls who are  disproportionately affected by COVID-19 can be found the Rapid Gender Analysis conducted in April, 2020. 

  • Child marriage is on the increase because families cannot afford to feed their families – although the age of marriage increased from 15.3 in 2007 to 16.3 in 2017.

  • Intimate partner violence affects 2 out of 3 women and more than half (54.7 percent) experienced it in the last 12 months. Many women were locked in place with abusive partners but domestic abuse continues even after the lockdown because of economic pressures. Many support services are severely limited or remain inaccessible. 

  • The economy is still struggling, with millions unemployed, or without an income. 91.8% of women are employed in the informal sector, such as domestic workers.

  •  As a result of the March shutdown of 1,904 factories in the readymade garment industry, over 2.1 million workers lost their jobs and most have not been called back. 

  • Of 104,789 (as of BMET data) women migrant workers overseas in 2019, most were forced to return to Bangladesh due to lockdowns and loss of jobs. Many of these women were the sole supporters of their families and were unable to find work back home. 

Ms. Ishikawa described a new project to train and support returning women migrant workers who lost their livelihoods when they were forced to leave their respective countries of employment. Many were initially shunned and stigmatized by neighbors who were afraid these women brought the virus back home with them. UN Women’s project provides dignity packages containing basic supplies for hygiene, essential food and masks for 10,000 returning workers and their families. The project also offers cash for work, and training in making masks to the government standard using traditional Bangladeshi fabrics and also educates the community about the importance of mask wearing and COVID-10 prevention. In this way, the project also empowers women by offering the opportunity for them to give back to their communities in addition to helping their own families. 

After the pre-recorded interview, Mary Luke and Anastasia Wardzinski from UN Women answered questions from the audience. The meeting concluded with a toast to celebrate UN Women’s 10-year anniversary, the United Nation’s 75th anniversary, and the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Conference.  


For information about how to donate to the Bangladesh returning migrant worker project, click here. 

Full Zoom Meeting Recording: https://bit.ly/3ePMomS

Interview with Shoko Ishikawa and Mary Luke: https://bit.ly/35nxfWZ  

Spoken Word video, written and performed by Soré Agbajev: https://youtu.be/C5wwzL7DowI

UN Women’s10th anniversary video: https://youtu.be/nU3nWLerGig