“We want to build a future where world peace and women empowerment remain the cornerstone to create a society free from poverty, discrimination, and conflict.” These were the words of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the Commonwealth Women’s Forum at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in London recently.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the recipient of the Global Women’s Leadership Award 2018, is the only female Muslim leader among the Organization of Islamic Cooperation member countries.
Many of us do not realize that there is no force more powerful than a woman who is determined to rise.
In the sector of business, women entrepreneurship is inherent, as they are naturally endowed with the qualities of entrepreneurship, and truly, the pedigree of success of a woman can be demonstrated in various ways of practical life.
Entrepreneurship is an innate quality for women. However, we know very little about female entrepreneurs, and our ignorance of this important demographic is a serious issue in any effort to increase the total number of entrepreneurs participating in Bangladesh’s economy.
Women have proved to be disciplined borrowers. So, considering the facts of growth of women entrepreneurship, financial institutions should take more initiatives to cluster this segment
Today, in the South Asian region, female education is extremely important, as it helps to eliminate various social injustices, especially for rural women. In Bangladesh, exploitation and domestic abuses have gone down substantially following the development of the female education sector. This has been a priority since the present government was re-elected, as a part of their earlier mandate.
“We foresee a future where women and men work hand-in-hand for human development, and ensuring quality education for girls and boys by 2030 is a priority for my government,” said PM Sheikh Hasina in 2011 when her government adopted a progressive National Women Development Policy for the country.
However, the genesis is a continuation of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s work on the principles of gender equality and non-discrimination as fundamental rights.
According to the report of The Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BWCCI), prevailing sex ratio in demographic structure of Bangladesh indicates that women comprise almost 50% of the total country’s population.
Due to this demographic structure, the issue of the participation of women in the mainstream economy is imperative. Without a meaningful and active participation of women in regular economic activities, a dynamic and sustainable economy is impossible. It is also impossible to achieve the target of a poverty-free society without incorporation of women in the mainstream of Bangladesh economy.
Unfortunately, the sheer recognition of trust among the society and mainly the financial organizations at large continues portray deficiency in assisting a relative and required support. Hence, the expected growth in the small and medium sector (SME) remains slow.
Bangladesh is a resource-limited and overpopulated country, where the society is highly stratified, services and opportunities are determined by gender, class, and location. However, considering the BWCCI statistical report, means there is a huge potential to be utilized for socio-economic development of the country.
The government has been distributing free textbooks, providing stipends to students, developing training infrastructures for teachers, enabling female participation in income-generating activities, and creating opportunities for women in the job market, and as a result, Bangladesh is now leading the way for gender equality in South Asia.
The employment statistics highlights that women in the rural sector are either self-employed or employed in family-based enterprises, which include both agricultural and non-agricultural sector. These activities include homestead agriculture, livestock and poultry rearing, fish farming, nursery and tree plantation, tool making, fish-net making, food processing, tailoring, rice processing etc and have been regular and invisible sources to family income supplementation.
In the urban sector, due to the growth and demand of the RMG sector, the share of women in production has increased; however, more and more women are recently taking up corporate roles to create the forefront of a revolution.
Today, Bangladesh boasts of a female prime minister, female national parliament speaker, female opposition leader, female higher and lower court judges, female officers in the armed and police forces, and much more.
These are indicators of development and emergence of economic leadership in the region.
Women in Bangladesh have expanded their roles in multiple sectors over time, and they have achieved recognitions above expectations. Banking, sports, textile, manufacturing, media, journalism, teaching, architecture and design, and other sectors are led by the women of the country.
Women of our society -- mostly in the rural areas -- have proven their skills in building the framework of Bangladesh economy based on micro-finance and small businesses. But, till date, banks still hesitate to lend to SMEs run by women, although their risk-taking and risk-measuring abilities remain far higher then men at large.
Women have proved to be disciplined borrowers, disciplined risk-takers, and finally timely payers of loans. So, considering the facts of growth of women entrepreneurship in the country, the financial institutions should take more initiatives to cluster this segment and calculate separate business growth models. These initiatives will open further avenues of revenue both for the enterpriser and the country at large via the local market as well as exports. Some financial institutions are already progressing with similar plans and executions in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh has become one of Asia’s most remarkable and unexpected success stories in recent years. Let us continue to build a just and sustainable environment for the country’s women, so their skills and contributions are reflected towards the ongoing development and economic growth of the nation.
Tarique Afzal is a banker