Due to different programs and initiatives of the Govt, women’s participation in mainstream economic activities is on rising by removing all social and financial barriers.
The opportunity of access to financial assistance and market, family limitations, lack of confidence in business abilities, gender biases, and other factors are major hurdles for women entrepreneurs in Bangladesh.
Government measures help women become entrepreneurs: Different ministries and departments of the Bangladesh Govt have been implementing several schemes including providing easy-term loan facilities to address the problems in the development of women’s entrepreneurship.
By taking facilities of the Govt, women in Bangladesh are now involved with wholesale and retail business or production systems and setting up industries. In this way, they are now also contributing to employment generation.
Officials concerned informed that the Govt has simplified the process of receiving bank loans and women are getting additional benefits in this regard.
The number of women entrepreneurs in the country has more than doubled in the last decade and at present, the ratio of women among the total new entrepreneurs every year is 32 percent, they mentioned.
They also informed that women are at the forefront of creating online entrepreneurs during the covid-19 pandemic.
Officials added that the Govt has taken steps to ensure collateral-free loans for women entrepreneurs as it is difficult for women to give mortgages.
An official of the SME Foundation said that they have disbursed a total of Tk 200 crore loan in the current fiscal of 2021-22.
Of which, 30 percent or Tk 60 crore has been distributed to women entrepreneurs, he added.
He also informed that an entrepreneur can take Taka 1 lakh to Taka 50 lakh as a loan as no collateral is required for a loan up to Tk 25 lakh.
He mentioned that Bangladesh Bank has reduced interest rates on loans for women entrepreneurs as a whole.
He said although the interest rate of conventional bank loans is 9 percent, but, women entrepreneurs are receiving loans at 5 percent interest.
Talking to BSS, Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF) Chairman Dr. Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad said that women entrepreneurs in Bangladesh have a very creative ability.
“They can learn by watching any hard task. However, obtaining funds for them can be made easier,” he added.
He said many women entrepreneurs are not aware of the policies that the Govt has provided for them. “We need to be more proactive in informing women entrepreneurs about this,” he added.
He said PKSF has set a target of lending around Taka 6,000 crore in the current financial year. There is no need for collateral for Taka 5 lakh to Taka 10 lakh loan, he added.
However, since the Covid-19 pandemic crippled many businesses and kept impacting on livelihoods of thousands, many were forced to resort to alternative means of income including exploring substitute channels.
Online-based business or E-commerce seemed to be a viable means of income in these perilous times. Individuals, particularly women, took this as an opportunity to start new businesses or flourish their existing ones.
According to the e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh (e-CAB), the sector saw at least 100,000 new entrepreneurs joining the online market.
For the past few years, Bangladesh’s e-commerce business expanded rapidly, with women entrepreneurs increasingly starting their online-based small and medium enterprises (SMEs) through Facebook.
Bangladesh currently has 2,500 e-commerce sites and a huge number of unofficial online shops run by women selling items worth over $2 billion, making it the 46th largest country in terms of e-commerce sales globally.
As per the e-CAB, now shopping is going on through about 20,000 Facebook pages in the country. Of these, 12,000 pages are run by women. Using Facebook as a medium, women are becoming entrepreneurs with little capital.
According to e-CAB, the e-commerce sector has witnessed a turnover of Taka 1,500 crore in the last year.
Successful Women Entrepreneur Nadia Binte Amin has been running her own business as well as working for the development of women entrepreneurs for a long time.
She is now a director of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI), a leading organization of businessmen.
She thought that financing is still a big obstacle in women’s business. However, this problem has declined a lot as the present Govt is entrepreneur-friendly, she added.
She said the Govt is doing a lot to take women forward. Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC), SME Foundation, and other lenders have taken various initiatives for young and women entrepreneurs to ease loan procedures, she added.
However, she mentioned that the process of getting a loan from a bank needs to be made easier.