A national-level forum for women entrepreneurs has become imperative to strengthen the voices of local and regional-level associations and coordinate their activities to help reach the common goal of women’s empowerment.
Society throws many challenges at women entering the world of business. Even if trainings and government schemes are in place, issues like lack of access to finance and compartmentalising women into traditional industries stand as impediments to success, experts and women entrepreneurs said during a seminar yesterday at The Daily Star Centre.
A voluntary network connecting all national and regional women entrepreneurs’ associations, repre-sentatives of national and regional organisations working for women’s empowerment and economic entities owned or managed by women would speak on behalf of them and “galvanise the government into policy changes” as suggested in a draft proposal.
The changes would be aimed at paving the way for increasing the number and range of women-owned businesses thus elevating the position of women in society.
Initially, Bangladesh National Women’s Forum was proposed as the name of the platform. Further discussions will help finalise the structure of the network, its name and how it will function, speakers said, adding that they plan to launch the platform in the next few months.
Atiur Rahman, former Bangladesh Bank governor; Kazi Amin, chief of Bangladesh Investment Development Authority; and Rokia Afzal Rahman, a renowned business leader, were present, among others, at the programme.
The network would ensure that women’s interests are taken into account in policymaking, and scrutinise proposed changes in legislation to have an impact on women. All of its actions will focus on improving the capacity of women entrepreneurs.
“If we all work together, it will increase our strength,” said Rokia Afzal.
At present, all women associations are working in isolation, without any communication between them, Kazi Amin said.
Psychological, social and economic barriers obstructing women entrepreneurs can be overcome by forming a unity, pulling all their strengths together, he said. “It is not only training and financial assistance that they need… to navigate through difficult terrains, they need mentors.”
“Women are much better performers, better borrowers. We are approaching $2,000 per capita income. It won’t be possible to increase it to $4,000 with half of the population underutilised or unutilised.”
When there are challenges, there are opportunities as well, Atiur Rahman said. There is a digital transformation taking place. “All our trade, everything will eventually go digital. You [women] have to keep in mind how businesses will take shape in, say, 10 years.”