The Women’s Corner at Satbaria Bazar in Pabna’s Sujanagar upazila, aiming at encouraging rural women traders, is about to be closed amid lack of sufficient backing.
The Local Government and Engineering Department (LGED), aided by non-governmental organisation CARE Bangladesh, made 12 shops at the corner at a cost of Tk 29 lakh 15 years ago and each of the 12 allottees, all poor women in the area, received Tk 5,000 to start their business.
Only two of the shops are now run by women, two or three others have been rented to male traders for storing goods, while the rest are virtually abandoned.
“A few of the female allottees never came to the market. Some influential male traders in the market then started using the shops for storing their goods,” said Md Samsul Islam, chairman of Satbaria Union Parishad.
“The allottees were supposed to pay a minimal monthly rent to the UNO, through the union parishad, which could have been used for maintenance but nobody do this. Many shops are on the verge of ruin,” he added.
Several local female traders said they are unable to compete in the market due to shortage of capital and non-cooperation from male traders while their male counterparts said women’s lack of experience and interest in business is responsible for their failure.
During a recent visit to Satbaria Bazar, this correspondent talked to Pila Rani, who runs one of the small shops with her husband, selling mostly singara, for over a decade.
“The shop is in a poor state as no repair work has been done since it was first built,” she said.
Hena Rani, the other female trader at the Women’s Corner, said, “Satbaria Bazar is a rich rural market with many big set-ups. It is difficult for small traders with a meagre capital to survive here. Besides, the Women’s Corner is at an odd place of the market, where only a few customers come.”
Talking to The Daily Star, Md Abdur Rashid, president of Satbaria Banik Samity, acknowledged the problems faced by female traders.
He, however, claimed that female traders who earlier got allotment of the shops left shortly afterwards as they did not have perseverance enough to build up business.
Over 200 other shops at Satbaria Bazar are running smoothly, he added.
The initiative to encourage female traders did not succeed due to a lack of sufficient support from locals, said Sujit Debnath, Sujanagar upazila nirbahi officer.