Times have changed. The patterns and implications of women’s business participation are changing. In that perspective, the Bangladesh-Malaysia Chamber of Commerce has created a women’s forum to increase the participation of Bangladeshi women entrepreneurs in the virtual market with the power of the Internet. 

In the debut seminar in the capital on Wednesday,  25 october, the sector concerned emphasized increasing the participation of women in making family decisions along with technology signature, devices, and financial resources as well as upscaling the proper technology knowledge and education are must for the women entrepreneurs in Bangladesh to keep pace with the transforming digital world. They also urged to build a knowledge hub for business abroad together.

Selima Ahmed, President of Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry, was the special guest at the seminar “SheMeansBusiness: Empowering Women Entrepreneurs in The Digital Economy” conducted by Syed Almas Kabir, President of Bangladesh-Malaysia Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Dr. Nadia Binte Amin, President Women Entrepreneurs Network for Development Association (WEND); e-CAB Women’s Forum President Nazneen Naha, Women in E-Commerce Trust (WE) Director Syeda Lutfunnahar and BRAC Bank’s Women Entrepreneurship Cell Head Khadija Maryam were present as the negotiator.

The speakers discussed the various obstacles faced by women in the field of business and the ways to overcome them. The speakers said that women started becoming entrepreneurs from F-commerce for the needs of the family during the COVID-19 pandemic. Initially started the business with self-made products but now they are sourcing. At the same time, they are doing business across the borders of the country.

Naznin Nahar, president of e-Cab Women’s Forum, said that the business has changed now, becoming an entrepreneur needs strategic planning, choosing the right platform, and the right product. proper strategies and planning are needed to sustain businesses.

For this, technical knowledge and other proper knowledge gathering are essential. Digital literacy and other skills are important for women to sustain in business. It is true that girls have progressed, but they have to survive to build a smart Bangladesh, she added.

Ms Mariam said women are the most efficient re-payers of bank loans compared to their male counterparts. She said, women entrepreneurs constitute less than one percent of the non-performing loans at BRAC Bank. However, the dropout ratio in businesses is relatively higher for women.

BRAC Bank disburses loans without collateral to women entrepreneurs but assesses their ability to repay.

“We are not permitted by the central bank to provide seed capital [money to begin developing an idea for a business] to women entrepreneurs,” she said.

According to Ms Mariam, taking loans from banks is an advanced decision that requires preparation by businesses.

She said banks can only disburse loans to the formal sector. “Those who have not yet started businesses will not be entitled to bank loans.”

Selima Ahmed MP, the president of the Bangladesh Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, delivered a speech as a special guest. She noted that in the past, women were predominantly involved in businesses such as fashion, boutiques, and beauty parlors, but times have changed. Despite the challenges they faced in establishing a women’s chamber, they persevered.

She emphasized that women entrepreneurs must confront and overcome various obstacles on their path to success. The digital economy is advancing, and the country already boasts 500,000 active women freelancers, with the potential to grow into a million-dollar sector. 

She also stressed the need for women entrepreneurs to receive education and upskilling, while also encouraging collective efforts with government support to promote their advancement.

Earlier, while speaking as the chief guest, the Malaysian High Commissioner Hajna Md. Hashim said that Bangladesh is a role model for the world in terms of women’s empowerment. Bangladesh has shown its strong commitment to women’s empowerment by ensuring women’s participation at every level of society and economy.

She expressed her gratitude to the BMCCI Women’s Forum. She said that, by organizing such events, the existing good relations between Bangladesh and Malaysia will be deeper and fruitful because Malaysia also believes in women’s empowerment and Malaysia has also ensured the participation of women in building its digital economy. She hopes that BMCCI will ensure gender equality and mainstream women entrepreneurs into the country’s economy and contribute to addressing the challenges faced by women in the business sector.

In his welcome address, BMCCI President Syed Almas Kabir said, that women entrepreneurs face different challenges in the business world, including investment skills, lack of proper mentoring, and limited opportunities to grow business contacts. BMCCI Women’s Forum aims to instill confidence in women entrepreneurs in these areas.

After discussions, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between BMCCI and the Women Entrepreneurs Network for Development Association (WEND), E-CAB Women’s Forum (EWF), and Women in E-Commerce Trust (WE).

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