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'Feeling safe while travelling is very important for women entrepreneurs'
Sadequa Sejuti, Managing Director at Future Solution for Business (FSB), Co-founder of Amar Desh Amar Gram
Co-founder of Amar Desh Amar Gram and the managing director of Future Solution for Business Ltd, Sadequa Sejuti is one of the most prominent young business leaders that has played an important role in the Bangladesh government's 'Digital Bangladesh' vision. She continues to do so through her acclaimed initiative 'Amar Desh Amar Gram', which creates ICT based network, connecting the rural and urban life through e-commerce, e-education and other tools.
Even though Sejuti studied architecture, she found her calling in entrepreneurship, the kind that really makes a difference. Her initiatives have been acknowledged many times, including by National Digital Awards 2011 and by United Nations World Summit Youth Award 2011.
Sejuti feels that one of the most important things women can do to empower themselves is to become active. "I feel the most important thing for women is that they have to do something. It doesn't have to be business necessarily. It may not be something that engages them fully. But it is very important to actually go out there and make your presence felt," she said.
"Although most, if not all women, who aren't doing something professionally, are not really sitting around. They are homemakers, and that's not an easy job, even though it is often perceived that way."
Speaking about what unique challenges women entrepreneurs face Sejuti said that lack of ease in travelling is a big problem. "As a woman entrepreneur you do face challenges. One that I particularly felt is the difficulties in travelling. As an entrepreneur you need to go to many different places. There is a sense of insecurity in moving around alone. That is certainly a big impediment for women entrepreneurs," she told Weekend Tribune.
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'Mindset change at the rudimentary level is essential'
Maliha Quadir, Managing Director, Shohoz Limited
Maliha Quadir essentially started what would be, and probably already is, the foundation of a digitized ticketing system in Bangladesh. As Shohoz Limited keeps growing and inevitably bringing the country's transportation sector closer to a complete digital transformation everyday, the woman at the helm of the company dreams to make life easier for people by introducing more services. The Harvard trained entrepreneur held high-position posts in global giant companies like Nokia, where she was the director for digital product expansion, before coming back to Bangladesh to start Shohoz.
Answering the question what is the one thing she would change that will positively impact the lives of women, Maliha Quadir said that choosing the right life-partner was among the most important things that can make or break the ambitions of a woman. "You can’t make it without a supporting husband," she simply said. But she also added that it is equally true for men. "One of the first things I told my husband was that I’m very career oriented and you must be supportive of that. And he is," she said smiling.
Although she mentions the life-partner, it actually includes extended family too, she further clarified. "Finding support from the family as a whole is important."
The Shohoz founder also thinks that change of mindset is crucial and it should be done at the rudimentary level. The best way that is achieved, she believes, is through the education system. "If I change something it would be the education system," She said.
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'Demanding equal opportunity is most crucial'
Rubaba Dowla, Founder and Managing Director, Pulse Healthcare Services
Often seen as the 'poster woman' for successful female business leaders, Rubaba Dowla has earned every bit of accolade and renown associated with her. Most known for her instrumental role in building the Telenor subsidiary Grameephone as a billion-dollar company from its startup phase, Rubaba has since went onto become one of the most authoritative telecom market strategists with expertise in all marketing related functions. Some of the successful product innovations that she was involved in achieved World GSMA awards.
Currently spearheading her own company Pulse, a digital healthcare platform, Rubaba came into the healthcare sector because she felt that it is one of the most important areas through which the people of the country can be served. Because mobile penetration is so widespread now, it has become much more convenient and practical to design digital healthcare service that can be delivered in rural areas.
The soft spoken and charismatic Rubaba thinks that gender equality is at the core of elevating women in the social and professional spheres. "If you work toward gender equality then that takes care of empowerment, discrimination against women, violence against women and all of the other related issues," she said. "Demanding equal opportunity for everyone and equal rights for everyone, I believe is the right area to focus on," said Rubaba Dowla. "I think that is not just something you choose, you have to focus on equality because that is extremely important, if not most important," she added.
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'Women tend to get scrutinized more than men'
Farzana Chowdhury, MD and CEO of Green Delta Insurance Company Ltd
Farzana Chowdhury's professional qualifications and achievements will make up a list too long for this article. She is the first ever female managing director and CEO in Bangladesh's insurance sector and the first woman as well hold both the MD and CEO posts in the financial sector of the country. Her illustrious career boasts playing an instrumental part in making 'small medium enterprise' banking established in the country through Brac Bank. Now the managing director and CEO of the only non-life insurance company with IFC World Bank equity investment in the country, Farzana Chowdhury is an amazingly down to earth individual in person. The image of a stern and serious person that her position invokes is quickly dispelled as soon as she speaks.
Under her leadership Green Delta's pioneering product 'Nibedita' achieved phenomenon success in creating an insurance product that provides unprecedented facilities for women. She was recognized as a Local SDG Pioneer 2016 by The UN Global Compact in the Global Leaders’ Summit because of designing Nibedita.
As a woman entrepreneur and business leader Farzana feels that women tend to get scrutinize more than men, as if they have more to prove. "When I became the MD and CEO, people said I had experience in banking and not insurance, even though other people running insurance companies didn't have any extra qualifications compared to me," she said.
But one thing about Farzana Chowdhury is that she alwasy loves a challenge. She decided to acquire the highest qualifications an insurer can get. As a result she became one of the very few Chartered Insurer in the country, when she was awarded with the prestigious Chartered Insurer Status by the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) UK. According to CII, this is the gold standard for insurance professionals and a very few professionals in Bangladesh have this distinction.
"When I feel challenged I do not get upset. I accept the challenge and prove my worth," she said.