A lot of things occur in daily life that makes me think to shut down my business but the only thing that inspires me to continue is my womanhood. It shoves me forward and makes me endure the daily grind and soothes my struggle. It makes me believe in myself and makes stronger my belief I CAN and I WILL. In the ever changing world women taking up the business roll almost equal to their men counterparts. The fear of losing a business or to a lesser extent fear of loss is less prevalent than men.

Women consider themselves strong innovators, and opportunities offered by women entrepreneurs in developing countries help grow markets and increase employment prospects. But in countries like Bangladesh women entrepreneurship is yet to become a norm of the day. Commonly women are thought to be good in traditional professions or businesses. They are more or less thought to be good at food, beauty and clothing and businesses like ventures in Information Technology or Information Technology Enables services or other areas are considered to be male only. This replicates in women education as well. Girls are encouraged to take medicine, home economics or Humanities subjects as they are thought to be weaker gender. Engineering and other professions are dominated by men and women in these sectors are looked upon at. The discrimination seems to eek from the traditional thinking of working women not providing enough time to family chores or family. Most women in our country are found in teaching, banking, rarely in IT or service sector. The sectors are more patience oriented than skill or knowledge. Women in our country are yet to realize their potential in other fields. Women entrepreneurs are a rarity in Bangladesh and even fewer in Information Technology field. The rigors of IT are not deemed fit for women here.

Today in this digital and cutthroat world economy, women entrepreneurship and women empowerment matters in the socio-economic development of all under developed and developing countries like Bangladesh. Women make around 51 percent of total population but women employment is only 19-20%. Only 11 percent of the entrepreneurs in the country are women. Many women have surpassed their male counterparts in the small and cottage industries, especially the handicrafts sector; while many courageous entrepreneurs have excelled in Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). Women have ventured in RMG, light engineering and pharmaceuticals, guiding others to compete in a man’s world. However, despite recent progress

in advancement and empowerment, the majority of women still remain vulnerable to poverty and social deprivations. Women entrepreneurs are in a less favourable position compared to men in terms of accessing commercial credit from formal financial service providers, more lucrative markets than the traditional local ones, and technology and information to establish and grow their businesses. Despite governmental commitment and donors’ efforts to reduce gender inequalities and increase the women participation in economy the women are still stay behind to developing proper women economic contribution to uplift women socio-economic status.

Why are women entrepreneurs important?

Existing situation of Bangladesh shows that women-owned small and medium enterprises tend to be concentrated in overall low-profitability or low-growth sectors. Retail, beauty and food services are among the sectors in which women focus. In Bangladesh about 70 percent of women are in these consumer-oriented sectors. The problem is that this centers women in sectors that are low earning and domestically focused with low prospects of economic and business growth, which helps explain the gender earnings gap.

But there is opportunity for far greater economic advancement. When women cross over into male-dominated sectors, they can earn three times as much

As in traditionally female-dominated sectors like IT and ITES, Pharmaceuticals, finance etc. Besides the financial institutions also change their mindset to offer the access of loan for those also who are not with the traditional business. Because BANK still not welcome the entrepreneurs involve with IT and ITES for loan.

By encouraging women to enter male-dominated sectors - and thereby changing the mindset of financial lenders and providing new opportunities for women to learn, grow and develop entrepreneurial businesses — women in developing countries can escape poverty and improve their country’s economic condition.

Women entrepreneurs of Bangladesh the women economic development in Bangladesh has been quite develop over the years under the leadership of honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. We also have Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury as our honorable speaker of the Jatiya Sangsad , Rowshan Ershad, oppositions leader and Begam Khalida Zia , chief of one of the leading political party in Bangladesh. Women leadership is impressive in Bangladesh.

In Bangladesh, women entrepreneurs have an edge over male entrepreneurs which matters to investors. One of the most obvious reasons to invest in women leaders in Bangladesh is that women control the vast majority of household spending. So unless the business is one that is focused mostly on men, women are more likely to understand the customer’s perspective. Women are often better at building long-term relationships than men. Lasting relationships benefit a business tremendously, as much as can be achieved with trust between employees, customers, suppliers, shareholders, government, etc. Since entrepreneurship is a critical driver of innovation and economic growth, fostering entrepreneurship is an important part of economic growth strategies in many local and national governments around the world.

Recently a survey has been conducted by RallyRound (A survey based event management company in Bangladesh) among the 500 women entrepreneurs working in different sector in Bangladesh. The participated entrepreneurs are both from rural and urban area of the country. The survey found that though the entrepreneurship is tough but 53% out of those 500 entrepreneurs are satisfied with their daily struggle and achievement. Some has inherited their business and some are doing the business as a partner with their counterpart but 16% started their own business to follow their passion. Sharing the challenges of the entrepreneurship 68% said that they facing the challenges to Access the Finance where 79% face the challenge to access the local and foreign market due to the lack to opportunity and support. Regarding the constant struggle 79% used to face the challenges of not being taken seriously and 59% agreed that they have the limitation of skill and they need more skill to grow along with mentoring and networking. Most think that ICT offering the best opportunity to balance life with business. 28% of the entrepreneurs either work from home or near their home to look after their family and they consider it as the beauty of business.

What are the barriers for women?

Access to finance is a huge barrier for the advancement of women-owned businesses. The financial institutions perceive women to be “riskier clients, higher cost clients and lower return clients,” which negatively influences their investment in women entrepreneurs. ”This is despite facts suggesting otherwise. In analyzing more than 2,000 financial and banking firms, the World Bank found SME clients were performing well, but overlooked most important headlines in your inbox every day.

In developing country like us financial barriers can be combined with legal and policy barriers and discrimination — including inability of married women to travel without a male escort, barriers to identification cards, and legal constraints around signing contracts on their own, accessing bank accounts or registering businesses. Other constraints include occupation segregation, lack of networks and limited links to high-value markets.

Indeed, access to skills remains an obstacle facing women. For example, A report found that “Malaysia, ranked in 9th place, exhibits the highest percentage of opportunity-driven female entrepreneurs, but at the same time, has a low percentage of female business owners who are highly educated in comparison with the overall female population. This is a trend seen in other developing and emerging economies as well, where the desire to exploit an entrepreneurial opportunity is high amongst the less-educated female population, yet the abilities (in terms of skills, networks, access to resources, etc.) are missing and so these entrepreneurial aspirations rarely move beyond a subsistent, small-scale business phase.” That is also common in Bangladesh. Entrepreneurship was once considered a man’s domain, but the tide has shifted. Although more women are becoming entrepreneurs,they often face a set of challenges not typically shared by their male counterparts. Some of the key challenges faced are:

  1. Access to Fund
  2. Access to market and Marketing strategy
  3. Cash flow management
  4. Hiring HR and manage
  5. Time management & delegate tasks
  6. Marketing strategy and access to market
  7. Data
  8. Self-doubt or Lack of self confidence
  9. Family & Social Challenges
  10. Owning your accomplishments
  11. Networking
  12. Fear of failure
  13. Lack of skill enhancement training programs.
  14. Technical support to transform

Ground of the Challenges:

Family & Society

Issues of economic problems, family-related concerns, social constraints, and other limitations faced show that women involved in various small and medium enterprises have to undertake the challenge to work in a male-dominated society and a competitive, complex business environment. The challenging situation of women’s entrepreneurship in Bangladesh is due to the complexities in the social environment and administrative structure. Many social and operational constraints continue to restrict women from starting and running economic enterprises.

Personal Skill

Personal qualities such as hard work and perseverance, management skills and marketing skills, and support provided by their spouses or family are the main reasons behind the success of the women entrepreneurs. The level of participation of women in mainstream economic activities remains insufficient and the percentage of women in business is still much below that of their male counterparts, especially in rural settings where women lack assistance in the access to credit, provision of skill training, and market facilities.

The majority of rural women have little knowledge on entrepreneurship development. Sometimes for reasons of personal requirements or the welfare of their families, the need to earn instigates women towards entrepreneurship. However, most of them have little idea about maintaining a business, production, acquiring raw materials, marketing techniques, book-keeping, and obtaining warehouse requirements

Training Opportunity

Training opportunities by government and NGO facilities exist for entrepreneurial development, are not available everywhere. Though the government has successfully conducting so many training under the High Tech Park Authority to educate, trained and skilled women in entrepreneurship.

Access to Finance

Starting a venture is risky as acquisition of business financing is a major challenge. Women entrepreneurs overcome this obstacle by minimizing inventory and factoring receivables since the majority of women are lone actors struggling to get small businesses off the ground.

Acquiring funds through traditional sources such as bank loans also have various problems. Most rural women have lower access to banks. They use personal or household savings, or borrow from friends, relatives, or even money lenders at high interest rates. Urban banks don’t assist most women due to a lack of references. Banks require guarantees for female entrepreneurs’ business loans and most husbands are not supportive in this regard. Sometimes husbands force their wives to share the loans for household requirements, creating problems regarding business finance and loan repayment.

Informal Business Structure

Bangladesh Bank’s circular of providing a BDT 2 million loan for women’s businesses did not have many takers. Despite repeated requests, none of the entrepreneurs has obtained this loan from banks. Because the shortage of company documents, proper trade license, cash records and sales record and other necessary documents and knowledge. On the other hand the IT and ITES companies cannot eligible for such loan as bank have the limitation to evaluate ITES as business?

Technical Support

Uneducated women entrepreneurs, especially in rural areas, still do not have access to technical and financial support that can give a boost to their businesses from the domestic level to the commercial. There are cultural and societal norms that hinder equal participation of women in ventures.

Access to Market

Participation in international trade fairs abroad has become a serious problem for women due to the extremely high rate of fees set by the Export Promotion Bureau. This has created financial problems for entrepreneurs who had produced their products for sale at international trade fairs abroad.

Marketing problems arise when shopkeepers harass women regarding timely payment of the products sold. Sometimes months pass by but the payments are denied. Entrepreneurs based outside the district where goods are sold, find it difficult to collect payment as unnecessary travelling costs incur financial loss on their enterprises.

What is required to overcome the challenges?

Though government has the above mentioned support to enhance the women entrepreneurship but it is not enough. We have long way to go. The private sector is also working to support the women entrepreneurship along with sort of association, NGO’s and SME foundation but still there is lot to develop and empower the women in entrepreneurship.

Importance of women entrepreneurs in the national development process has been acknowledged. The steps to realize these objectives are as follows:

Support Services

● Legal assistance for getting trade license and other trade documents

● Financial support to reduce interest rates, ensure easy access to loans, and guarantor-free loans for women entrepreneurs

● Marketing assistance to use local products. Market should be created abroad through fairs and other promotional campaigns. Women-owned businesses need to scale, focus on more productive sectors and move up the value chain, in order to more successfully compete in the increasingly complex trade landscape.

● Technology including continuous product/service quality control, quality enhancement through adopting new technology, tax reduction on imported new machinery, etc.

● Adoption of business management practices covering a range of activities like HR, employee handling, customer management, recordkeeping, costing, inventory management, procurement, strategic positioning, etc.

Policies and Programmers

Government strategies in its National Action Plan (NAP) for the development of women’s entrepreneurship include:

● Adoption of a comprehensive sustainable industrial policy that will promote equity for women and men and Setting up a Women Entrepreneurship Development Cell

● Quality Statistics I required to identifying Women economic participation or their business ownership, including company trade license. Identification of women entrepreneurs is required along with a Publication of a directory of women entrepreneurs across the country. It need to ensure that women are identified and perceptible in the economy by capturing the percentage and amount of budget and spend allotted for doing business with companies owned by women;

● Development of entrepreneurial skills of women through Entrepreneurship Development Training

● Provision of infrastructural facilities for women entrepreneurs and Support research, evaluation and action oriented programs

● Organizing women entrepreneurs’ conventions and Meetings to discuss problems faced

Policy recommendations

Entrepreneurship is the key to the creation of new enterprises that energize and revitalize the economy. It serves as a catalyst in the process of industrialization and economic growth. Women entrepreneurs can play a vital role in combating rural poverty. The emergence and development of women entrepreneurship largely depend on the supporting conditions of economic, social, cultural, and psychological factors. To improve women’s socioeconomic status, it is necessary to formulate appropriate government policies, take necessary actions and introduce effective measures to integrate women in the mainstream development process. The government’s industrial policies stipulate several useful strategies to broaden the participation of women entrepreneurs:

Financial policies and strategies

● Identification of viable women entrepreneurs capable of running independent businesses and establishing a credit guarantee scheme for women entrepreneurs. Need to Sinking interest rate for loans for women entrepreneurs along with the special windows or counters for women entrepreneurs in commercial banks.

● Pre- and post-investment counseling for women entrepreneurs and Allocation of women’s share in equity development and fund

● preferential treatment of credit & Monitoring of credit disbursement for women entrepreneurs in thrust sectors

● maintaining gender-based data on credit disbursement and dissemination of information on credit opportunities

● Creation of a one-stop service at the Ministry of Commerce for women entrepreneurs

● establishing a women’s bank and enabling credit for women without collateral

● E-serving plots for women entrepreneurs in industrial parks in all divisional towns

● promoting    female    labor-intensive export-oriented production & Encouraging female entrepreneurs in the export sector

● honoring best female entrepreneurs by awarding the Annual Export Trophy

● Organize national and international trade fairs for women entrepreneurs and fixed quota of stalls for women entrepreneurs at export fairs

● arranging exclusive fairs to promote products manufactured by small and cottage based units and Ensuring participation of women entrepreneurs in policymaking, financing, and investment

Counseling and support services

● Linking credit programs with entrepreneurship development training programs

● Encouraging women to come up with new products and diversify their products, Designing various incentive packages

● providing financial support and, in special cases, arranging necessary capital

● Establishing a separate bank to ensure easy access to industrial credit, equity capital, venture capital, working capital, and collateral free loans

● advocating for reducing custom, excise duties and insurance facilities for SME women entrepreneurs

● setting up development banks with separate advisory service cell for women and Simplifying lending procedures with minimum documentation formalities

Other recommendation can considered

● Tax holidays for women entrepreneurs should be extended further and made more supportive and Gift tax should be removed in the case of women beneficiaries

● either the registration procedure for import and export business should be simplified and made women friendly or completely dismantled

● All anomalies in custom procedures, Tariff and Value Added Tax (VAT) for women entrepreneurs should be abolished

Government Initiatives to Address the Challenges

Bangladesh government also has taken a special project to help create more women entrepreneurs in the country’s thriving ICT sector, providing them with necessary training and some other initial supports. Regarding the initiative, Bangladesh ICT State Minister Zunaid Ahmed Palak said, “The ‘She Power Project’ is designed to create more female entrepreneurs in the ICT sector, which will also be a leap forward in women empowerment,”.

The project has been developed under the guidance of the ICT division, which is funding also for its implementation across the country, the state minister said. Project Director Solaiman Mondol said initially a total of 10,500 women will be provided with necessary trainings to achieve three primary goals of the project. The goals include creating 4000 women entrepreneurs, developing skill of another 4000 women in providing internet-based services and engaging 2500 women in Call centers. Dhaka-based entrepreneurial organization SME Foundation said some of the women involved with digital centers have been trained to become ICT freelancers while the others will become ICT entrepreneurs so that they can tap the potential of

ICT sectors. In last three years, the government has created 1,600 women ICT entrepreneurs, freelancers and professionals across the country while the process is underway to create 1,400 more women entrepreneurs and freelancers, according to data provided by SME Foundation. Bangladesh’s banks allocate only 3 percent of their total SME Loan to women entrepreneurs last year although Bangladesh Bank (BB) directed the banks to allocate 10 percent of SME loan to women entrepreneurs. The BB, according to sources, has reserved 15 percent of total re-financing scheme for the women entrepreneurs and directed all commercial banks to allocate 10 per cent of total SME loan in initiatives undertaken by women.

To ensure more participation of women entrepreneurs in industrial development and conducting business activities by women entrepreneurs in large number, the central bank’s SME Policy said that priority shall have to be given to potential women entrepreneurs in respect of SME credit disbursement.

Bangladesh Bank SME and Special Programmes Department General Manager Shaikh Mohammad Salim said that banks are far from the target of financing the women entrepreneurs.

Shaikh Mohammad Salim said “We have reserved 15 percent of fund for women entrepreneurs in refinance scheme. There is a directive to allocate 10 per cent of total SME credit to enterprises led by women.

Bangladesh HiTech Park Managing director, Hosna Ara Begam , NDC state that to foster the local ICT industry and entrepreneurship we already have established Bangobandu Hi-Tech City in Kaliakoire, Janata Software technology park in Dhaka , sheikh Hasina software park in Jessore. Besides we are working to established sylhet electronic city in sylhet, Bangobandu Shiekh Mojib Hitech park in Rajshahi, Shiekh Kamal IT training and incubation centre in natore. We have our plan to established 28 Hi-tech park across the different district of the country to offer the opportunity for our local start ups and entrepreneurs so that they can grow . Only the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Hi-Tech Park has the opportunity to create 14,000 jobs for our people. besides we also have started to established ICT incubator cum training centre in RajShahi and Khulna along with a IT business incubator in CUET.

Hi-Tech Park Project Director A.N.M.Safiqul Islam said “till now we have trained more than 6600 people in IT where 30% is women. More over we have sort of specialized Training program for women and disables to skill them in IT and Entrepreneurship. Under the salary incentive program we already have create the employment opportunity for more than 2000 people. To connect youth with advance technology we have established specialized computer lab in 17 government university across the country. So we are dedicatedly working to enhance the industry and it need to mention that Bangladesh has already became the ICT destination for those who want to invest and make business.

Conclusion

Women’s economic empowerment is not a matter of government policy, the private sector, or social change alone. It is the matter for all to be concerned about. Government and private sector interventions have generally accelerated income-generating activities of women both in the urban and rural areas. Such kind of support services, policies and strategies have helped change the scenario in Bangladesh, especially for the women who gathered the courage to break barriers and enter the formal working force as entrepreneurs and workers. Women genuinely love their work, are willing to put in those extra hours to make the business succeed, and research ways to make the business better. There is no such thing as a typical entrepreneur. Some entrepreneurs are quiet and hard-working, while others are more outgoing and flamboyant. The key to being a successful entrepreneur lies in the ability to take an idea and, through the process of innovation, develop it in such a way that it becomes a marketable product or service. Both government organizations and the private sector have a major responsibility to promote entrepreneurship development for women. Without that, the advancement of women will remain a distant reality.

Reference:

h t t p s : / / w w w. t h e d a i ly s t a r. net/education-employment/ c h a l l e n g e s - w o m e n - entrepreneurs-1366573 Bangladesh Statistics Bureau


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