Six microentrepreneurs and two micro-lenders yesterday won prestigious awards for creating jobs for themselves and for others as well as helping small borrowers make their way up the economic prosperity ladder.
M Abdul Mannan, state minister for finance and planning, handed the Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards among the winners at the capital's Sonargaon Hotel.
Bangladesh Bank Governor Atiur Rahman gave away the prize money and Rashed Maqsood, country officer of Citibank NA Bangladesh, handed the certificates.
Samsad Akter from Baliadangi in Thakurgaon won a trophy as the Best Microentrepreneur of the Year in recognition of her long struggle against poverty.
Nicknamed Mukti, which is freedom in English, Samsad set up a factory to produce mattresses in 2005 and did not look back since. She now employs 150 workers in her locality in the underprivileged part of the country.
“I want to expand the factory. Now my products are sold within the country, but I also want to export them,” she said in her immediate reaction. She also called for interest-free loans to expand her factory further.
Apart from the trophy, Samsad received Tk 4.5 lakh as prize money.
In the same category, Samirunnahar Begum from Shaymnagar in Satkhira became the runner-up and won Tk 1 lakh as prize money.
Roksana Begum from Bhaluka in Mymensingh was recognised as the Best Woman Microentrepreneur of the Year, for setting up a paper cone making factory that changed her fate and also that of many others in the neighbourhood.
In her journey towards prosperity from poverty, she has created 30 permanent jobs and 20 temporary ones.
Roksana said: “Thanks to the factory, I am doing well now. Some people of my area are also doing fine.”
She also received Tk 3.5 lakh as prize money. Zahira Begum from Mela Kochukata, Nilphamari became the runner-up in the same category, and won Tk 1 lakh as prize money.
Md Somed Fakir from Taltoli from Borguna was honoured as the Best Microentrepreneur of the Year in Agriculture for riding out of the poverty trap through fish farming and producing oil from his own coconut trees and selling them in the market.
“I used to eat rice littered with salt. Now I earn Tk 6 lakh annually,” said Fakir, who even lost his homestead to Cyclone Sidr in 2007. He received Tk 3.5 lakh as prize money.
Anju Sarker from Kashobpur in Jessore received the award as the runner-up in the same category. She received Tk 1 lakh as prize money.
Manabik Shahajya Sangstha won the award in the Best Microfinance Institution of the Year category and received Tk 3 lakh in prize money. Sajida Foundation won the award as the Most Innovative Microfinance Institution of the Year.
Atiur Rahman thanked the winners for showing immense courage, confidence and leadership, and leading their way out of poverty. “We have to work to remove the barriers that stand in the way of micro-enterprises from thriving,” he said.
Banks and microcredit organisations together have produced many successful micro-entrepreneurs, he said.
Some 170 microcredit organisations have lent Tk 15,000 crore alone in 2013 to help micro-borrowers graduate to micro-enterprises. Of the loans, over Tk 9,000 crore are outstanding.
“Under this initiative, about 22 lakh micro-borrowers have graduated into micro-entrepreneurs,” said the governor, urging the microcredit organisations to improve their products and services further.
Rokia Afzal Rahman, president of the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who announced the name of winners in each category, thanked the winners on behalf of the jury board.
“When I talk about microcredit I feel very proud. Thanks to microcredit organisations, villages and rural economies have become economically vibrant. Both men and women have found jobs,” said Rokia Rahman, one of the leading entrepreneurs in the country.
Richard Tesvich, managing director and regional head of corporate affairs of Citi for Asia Pacific region, said Citi takes great pride in having been able to successfully continue the award.
“The contribution of micro-credit in developing as well as developed economies is widely accepted today. Bangladesh being the birthplace of micro-finance has always been at the forefront to bringing innovation in this sector.”
The winners “stepped forward to leave a mark of their hard work, passion and innovation in the Bangladesh economy and communities in which they operate,” he said.
Citi Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Citigroup, has launched the Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards to promote microenterprises and increase awareness of the financial service needs of micro-entrepreneurs in the country.
The award is being supported by Citi Foundation and implemented by Citibank NA and Credit Development Forum. Channel i, a leading television channel, and The Daily Star, the country's top-selling English newspaper, are the media partners.
Abdul Awal, executive director of the Credit Development Forum, also spoke.