Mokseda Begum, a housewife from Thakurgaon district, decided to take matters into her own hands after her husband died.
Struggling to make ends meet, she sought training from the Department of Youth Development to be a tailor.
Emboldened by her newly acquired skills, Mokseda decided to set up a handicraft venture. In 2000, with a capital of Tk 50,000 she started Ononna Hostoshilpa and there has been no looking back since.
Today, she employs 30 regular workers and around 300 on contract and has Tk 15 lakh tied to the business.
A beacon for women entrepreneurs, Mokseda, 52, was yesterday conferred the Grassroots Women Entrepreneur Award 2013 at a ceremony at the capital, organised by the Association of Grassroots Women Entrepreneurs, Bangladesh in association with IFIC Bank.
Kohinoor Akter from Jessore, the proprietor of Kohinoor Handicrafts, got the first runner-up award, while Shahnaaz Begum from Dinajpur, the owner of Glamour Fashion House and Rose Beauty Parlour, bagged the second runner-up title.
Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury handed over the awards to the three entrepreneurs, who also got cash prizes. The winner got Tk 3 lakh, the first runner-up Tk 2 lakh and the second runner-up Tk 1 lakh.
She also handed over loans to some grassroots women entrepreneurs after launching a financial product of IFIC Bank at the event. The product, Pranto Nari, aims to provide credit to small women entrepreneurs.
The speaker of the parliament urged women entrepreneurs to diversify their products and businesses.
“Diversify your products, designs, patterns and colours to make your wares attractive in the competitive market.” She said women's empowerment has emerged as a major component to achieving the Vision 2021. In addition to creating entrepreneurship opportunities for women, training on managerial, risk management and business operation are also needed, she said, while requesting the public and private sector organisations to come forward to this effect.
Coordination between creating opportunity and ability to make the most of it is most important, she added.
Bangladesh Bank Governor Atiur Rahman said 15 percent of a refinancing scheme for the SME sector has been kept for women entrepreneurs in a bid to increase their participation in the economy.
In the first six months of this year, the central bank has refinanced Tk 842 crore in favour of 10,000 women entrepreneurs, he said. Banks and non-bank financial institutions have disbursed Tk 3,347 crore in favour of 41,695 women entrepreneurs last year.
Although half of the country's population is women, the number of women entrepreneurs is insignificant. “It is not possible to attain the desirable economic growth without ensuring the participation of women in mainstream development.”
Mousumi Islam, president of Association of Grassroots Women Entrepreneurs, said the organisation initiated the award with a mission to empower the grassroots women who are actively involved in entrepreneurship. “We will continue this and arrange the award every two years.”
Meher Aforze Chumki, state minister for women and children affairs; Shah A Sarwar, managing director of IFIC Bank; and Shaym Sunder Sikder, chairman of the Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation, also spoke.