I had blogged about gender parity in education in South Asia and how Bangladesh was doing better than India in that category. Here is a guest post by Nipa, a statistician who looked at the Unicef report:

If we compare both countries, what seems remarkable to me is that while India has a much higher percentage of adult literacy rate (57% vs 40%), average income ($530 vs $400), and less number of children per woman, it is performing unfavorably in the areas of number of children in primary school, infant mortality rate (63% vs 46%), under five child mortality rate and maternal mortality rate(540 per 100,00 against 320 to 400 per 100,00) . With so much more average income and higher percentage of educated adults, India’s life expectancy at birth (64 yrs) is only 2 years more than that of Bangladesh. It tells me that not too much attention is being paid to public health or the improvement of the rural areas. India seems to have neglected the rural people, as shown by the decline of routine immunization coverage (a decline from 60% to 40%).

Maybe, because Bangladesh is so poor, a lot more aid money and effort per person are being invested there than in India, resulting in the higher rates I mentioned above. But there also seems to be an effort by the government at the policy level to change things.

A few years back, Bangladesh added the incentive of both monetary and food help to the families who send their girl children to school, to the existing mandatory primary education law. The more girls you send to school, the higher your reward. In my recent visits to Bangladesh, I have seen groups and groups of girls going and coming back from school in their cute uniforms (free), even in the remotest villages.

In Bangladesh women have lower status in general, but I don’t think they are as unwanted as in India, reflected by the rapidly declining child sex ratio, which fell from 945 females per 1000 males in 1991 to 927 to 1000 in 2001. For Bangladesh, it is roughly fifty fifty.

In my opinion, both Grameen Bank and the recent blossoming of the garment industry has opened up unprecedented employment opportunities for women in Bangladesh. Parents realize that by sending their daughters to school, not only are they receiving the money and food provided by the govt., their daughters have the potential of earning money and improving their lot.