The banking sector lent Tk 395 crore to 3,317 new women entrepreneurs in the last one year, the number being 5 percent of the total new SME borrowers, Bangladesh Bank Governor Atiur Rahman said yesterday.
“Half of our population are women and most of them are jobless. Unless we engage them in activities where they have competitive edge over others, we will be losing national output by under-utilising their skills and creative/innovative ideas.”
If a particular woman has better skills and entrepreneurial capacity, she should be given a fair chance to pursue her career, Rahman said at a seminar on credit access for women entrepreneurs.
The event was organised at the central bank headquarters in Dhaka under the auspices of EU-sponsored Bangladesh INSPIRED (component 3) project.
The Integrated Support to Poverty and Inequality Reduction through Enterprise Development (INSPIRED) programme, funded by the Bangladesh government and the European Union, aims to develop SMEs in the country.
“It has been for a while that we have started our campaign for empowering women through arranging financial access and other necessary supports for them,” Rahman said.
In the last five years, a paradigm shift has taken place in the policy regime of Bangladesh Bank, especially in the areas of SME and agriculture financing, which is somewhat unconventional, he said.
“Inclusiveness in all aspects of BB's policy has been prioritised. Women entrepreneurship development is one of the important dimensions of that inclusive policy.”
The banking regulator has instructed banks and non-bank financial institutions to set up 'help desks' for women entrepreneurs and created provision for collateral-free loan of up to Tk 25 lakh, he said.
“Stakeholder engagement is also critical here,” Rahman said, adding that the BB will try to motivate the industries ministry to ensure that the SME strategy under consideration should address specific issues in access to finance for women entrepreneurs.
Philippe Jaques, first counsellor and head of cooperation of the EU delegation to Bangladesh, and Ali Sabet, team leader of Bangladesh INSPIRED (component 3), were also present.