Women empowerment is a smart economic strategy for building better society, views Coca-Cola Bangladesh Mananging Director Shadab Khan. The beverage giant has started the project in 2014 in Jamalpur with the objective of empowering women under its Woman Business Center (WBC) project.
The Coca-Cola high-up talks about the project to the Dhaka Tribune
in an inclusive interview.
Would you please say something about the project?
The project has so far generated thousands of women entrepreneurs across the country. We have trained 1,000 women and there are about 10,125 beneficiaries today in Jamalpur.
We have set up ten WBCs there. According to the World Bank report, women workforce in Bangladesh would increase to 30% to 80% in next couple of years. Coca-Cola is a local company with a global look. So our responsibility for Bangladesh is to develop it economically, build a better society and move future generation with strong vision forward.
Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina always puts emphasis on participation of women workforce in the country’s economy. If 50% of women workforce participation is ensured, Bangladesh will easily be able to achieve a middle-income status.
What is Woman Business Center?
Basically, Woman Business Center is an e-commerce platform. WBC trains women on how to sustain their income along with increasing their earnings and business skill, providing access to affordable skill development, giving technological advices and agriculture methodology to increase production in rural areas.
WBC is a global initiative of the Coca-Cola Company where we look for empowering five million women across the global by 2020.
The reason for that is very simple. The trained women will move on, earn more and spend more.
Empowering woman is a smart economic strategy for building better society.
For example, five women entrepreneurs in each village under WBC project have been creating new women entrepreneurs.
So, the idea of business center revolves into cornerstone of the society.
We support their access to knowledge and services, laptop, scanners and printers. Five women entrepreneurs are first taken for the project to move other women forward in the villages, which help empower womenfolk.
What is the next step of the project?
We have set it up with these five women. Project now steps into its third year. We launched the project in Jamalpur first in 2014. After its successful completion, we are now looking forward to expanding our project elsewhere.
We want to apply the same method under the WBC in Khunla. We have learnt a lot in Jamalpur. WBC training has already created good impression. We want to implement the project across the country. After the programme, rice production has gone up by 13% compared to the previous period and vegetable by 17%, and 91% of the women receiving healthcare services were involved in the WBC.
You know women healthcare is a concerning issue in rural communities. Earlier in rural areas, only 20% of the women went to village doctor.
Did you visit the areas?
My colleague Shammia and I met those women at regular intervals. We went to WBC in Jamalpur. Three women of WBC came to Dhaka for getting awards for their best performances. Fatema Begum, Ayesha Siddika and Shopna Begum from Gopalpur WBC Kendua union under Jamalpur Sadar upazilla won the first prize .
Is the woman empowerment project part of your CSR initiative?
No, it is not. We produce non-alcoholic beverage across the world. So our major responsiblity towards Bangladesh rural women is to empower them financially.
What is the latest development of setting up a Coca-Cola bottling plant by the Atlanta-based firm in Bangladesh?
Bangladesh is a country that has absolutely the lowest per capita consumption of beverage. So, it will be significant to have the Coca-Cola business grow in Bangladesh along with enhancement of per capita beverage consumption. We believe that it is an extremely positive outlook for Coca-Cola business in Bangladesh. That is why we bring the largest Coca-Cola bottling company ‘International Beverage Private Limited’ in Bangladesh. It is a large foreign direct investment in the country and $50 million is the committed amount of investment here. We see investment more than that and we want to begin operation very soon. But approval of regulatory bodies like BSTI and BoI is needed. We want to continue to grow in Bangladesh in terms of share and money as well.