Women entrepreneurs have come a long way despite facing social and economic barriers, speakers said yesterday.
Now female entrepreneurs need policy support and more budgetary allocation, which will lead to the development of entrepreneurship in Bangladesh, they said.
The speakers made the comments at the silver jubilee celebration of Women Entrepreneurs' Association (WEA), Bangladesh's oldest platform of women in business which was formed in 1993, at Gulshan Club in Dhaka.
Addressing as chief guest, Atiqul Islam, mayor of Dhaka North City Corporation, said women have significant contribution in bringing success to the country's apparel exports.
He said many Bangladeshi female designers were working with world famous brands but the country's people were in the dark of their success stories.
“Many women entrepreneurs could not promote their products in foreign markets. We will have to open up opportunities for them so that they can grow,” said the mayor, also a former president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.
Atiur Rahman, former governor of Bangladesh Bank, said the lack of finance was still a major challenge for women entrepreneurs although the situation was gradually improving due to some policy measures taken by the central bank.
“Social barriers are still prevailing as banks ask women entrepreneurs to make their husbands guardians and guarantors,” said the former governor.
He came up with a suggestion for overcoming the financing hurdles faced by women entrepreneurs. Every year the government allocates Tk 200 crore for women entrepreneurs but the fund remains unspent, he said.
So, the government can create a guarantee scheme of Tk 200 crore in the coming budget to make the fund usable, said Rahman.
Rokia Afzal Rahman, founder president of the WEA and vice president of the International Chamber of Commerce, Bangladesh, said the WEA has proved its quality by establishing itself as a strong forum in the last 25 years.
“Now time has come to reach entrepreneurs in remote corners, focus on humanity and stand beside physically challenged women,” said the reputed entrepreneur.
Many associations of women entrepreneurs have been developed and all those should collaborate with each other so as to have a strong voice, she said.
She urged the government to extend policy support and more budgetary assistance to develop female entrepreneurship.
Nilufer Ahmed Karim, president of the WEA, said many members of the association have graduated into large entrepreneurs in the last 25 years.
Sidsel Bleken, Norway's ambassador to Bangladesh, also spoke at the programme.
At the silver jubilee celebration, the WEA honoured its past presidents for their outstanding contribution to developing women entrepreneurs.
They are Rokia Afzal Rahman, Masarrat Khan, Sharmeen Soneya Murshid, Sabrina Islam and Nasreen Rab Ruba.
The WEA in its 25-year journey has been promoting women entrepreneurs in various sectors including readymade garments, ornaments and jewellery, handicrafts, handloom, leather products, light engineering, pharmaceuticals, customer services and information and communication technology.
The association also does advocacy for creating favourable business environments for women entrepreneurs in Bangladesh. The WEA has also taken initiatives to connect its members with the global market.