Composition : Women Entrepreneurship & Empowerment in Bangladesh

According to the definition given in the Industrial Policy 2016, The Bangladesh Bank (BB) also follows the same definition. “A female is an entrepreneur if she is the owner or proprietor of a privately-run business, or organization or owns at least 51% share in a joint venture or company listed with the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies and Firms.” Women entrepreneurship in Bangladesh is a source of income generation for a woman and a way of achieving economic independence.

Women Entrepreneurship & Empowerment in Bangladesh

Women empowerment refers to the state of being empowered in regard to political, social, and economic aspects. The term was created by women’s rights activists who believed that gender equality would only be reached if women got equal access to resources and opportunities as men. One of the most important steps toward achieving gender equality is giving women more control over their reproductive choices, but this can be difficult because government policies often make these services inaccessible or unaffordable.

The number of working women increased to 18.6 million in 2016-17 from 16.2 million in 2010. Bangladesh secured the 47th position among 144 countries in 2017 as per The Global Gender Gap Report, whereas India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, and Pakistan remain at 108, 109, 111, 124, and 143 positions respectively.

Bangladesh is a densely populated country with limited resources and higher social stratification. According to WED (2001) based on gender, class, and location economic, political, and social better prospects for business growth expansion while rural areas lag behind. Nearly half of the population are women (sex ratio 106). Since few women participate in the mainstream of economic activities the enormous potentiality of the population is unutilized. For instance, only 16% of women and self-employed out of 66% are self-employed citizens (based on entrepreneurship status). Encouragingly, there is a rising of a new class in rural Bangladesh, they are the women entrepreneurs who have accepted the challenges of life and have emerged as leaders in the socio-economic development, thus earning for themselves and for their families and contributing towards the socio-political upliftment of women. Consequently, entrepreneurship has become an important profession among women in both rural and urban areas. Women in urban areas engaged in different small and medium business enterprises e.g. handicrafts, fashion house, parlor, home textile, food, cooperatives, chain shops, ICT even large businesses to some extent. Rural areas are begin self-employed through the agricultural and nonagricultural sectors, as entrepreneurs. These activities are cropping, rearing livestock and poultry, fish farming, nursery and tree planting, tool making, handcrafting, food processing, tailoring, rich processing, etc. But it is not so easy to operate these businesses as they are engulfed with numerous problems that act as barriers to the growth and expansion of women's entrepreneurship.

Problems and prospects
  • Becoming an entrepreneur is a big challenge for women.
  • Women in Bangladesh have progressed notably in terms of their participation in the labor force, from 15.8% in 1995-96 to 35.6 in 2016.
  • Among them, only around 12 percent have emerged as entrepreneurs.
  • According to the Economic Census of 2013, there are 7.8 million enterprises (economic activities) in Bangladesh.
  • Of which 7.3 million are male-headed and only 0.6 million are female-headed. Thus only 7.2% of the total enterprises are female-headed.
  • It was 2.8% (0.10 million) in 2001 & 03. It implies that more female is getting into the business as the head of establishments.

  • Feeling the pressure of risk of business
  • Suffering from uncertain future steaming out of price volatility of raw materials are final products.
  • Fluctuation in income, creating uncertainty
  • Unfair treatment from people in business connections
  • Social and familial obstacles
  • Dual responsibility of work and family

Provide access to finance : Encourage financial institutions to provide loans with flexible terms and lower interest rates to women entrepreneurs. Additionally, create financial literacy programs to help women understand how to manage their finances and access funding.

Offer training and education : Provide training programs and mentorship opportunities for women entrepreneurs to learn about business planning, marketing, and other important skills. Access to technology and digital literacy should also be a priority.

Create networking opportunities : Create opportunities for women entrepreneurs to connect with each other, industry experts, and potential customers. This can be done through local events, business fairs, and online communities.

Address cultural and social barriers : Address societal and cultural barriers that can prevent women from starting business or accessing resources. This can include changing attitudes and beliefs about gender roles and supporting women’s empowerment.

Collaborate with local and international Organizations : Collaborate with local and international organizations to bring attention to women entrepreneurs and provided them with support. Government agencies, non-profits, and corporate partners can all play an important role in supporting women entrepreneurs. By implementing these recommendations, it is possible to create a supportive ecosystem for women entrepreneurs in Bangladesh and help them to grow their businesses and contribute to the country’s economic growth.

  • Bibi Rusell : After graduating from London College of Fashion, Bibi Rusell worked as a fashion model for a few years. She founded her fashion house Bibi Productions in the year 1995 in Bangladesh.
  • Shima Rozario : Founder of K. K. Enterprise.
  • Ivy Huq Rusell : She founded that provides an opportunity to improve lives of women in Bangladesh.
  • Taslima Miji : She established Techmania in June, 2008, which provides hardware and related services.
  • Monowara Ali Khan : A social entrepreneur, loves challenges. She founded her first business in tourism, ‘Intraco Tours and Travels’, in the year 1978, which was a huge success. But she did not stop there. She has also established CNG and Solar businesses.
  • Rokia Afzal Rahman : The first women bank manager of Bangladesh, observed the potential of agriculture in this country. She founded ‘RR Cold Storage Limited’ in the year 1980, supporting 15000 farmers with capital. She has served in different positions in prestigious organizations.

Policies and Programmes
Successive governments have continued to make gender responsiveness an essential element in long-term national development schemes. Women’s issues where mainstreamed into key development strategies, such as the Five-Year Plans, Vision-2021 and Vision-2041. In the aftermath of the historic Beijing conference, the government formulated the National Women’s Development Policy and the National Plan of Action, keeping with the spirit of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. The policy and plan were both subsequently enriched, reflecting on the outcomes of the Fourth World Conference on Women, the Twenty-Third Special Session of the General Assenbly, the 2030 Agenda for Development and SDG 5. Consistent with these strategics and policies, the government also strove to tackles challenges like child marriage, violence against women, trafficking and other crimes by enacting appropriate laws. Apart from enacting and enforcing laws, the government, in partnership with the civil society, has worked to general social awareness about these vices.

Despite steady improvement in women’s empowerment, Bangladesh still has a long way to go. Only 36% of the working-age women participate in the labor force. The unemployment rate among women is double the rate of men, and most women work in vulnerable, informal occupations. Bangladehi women need more holistic, intensive support, in addition to access to finance, to break the persistent norms that hinder their progress. Women’s empowerment can only be achieved when we include men and boys. Men are often those who define and keep women within their boundaries. But when we engage with them they realize that their wives’ empowerment benefits the whole family.
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