Training for the first steps of life
Women entrepreneurs have great ideas and entrepreneurial skills to become an integral part of the economy, but many cannot succeed in taking the first few steps just because they lack required mentoring.
"We, therefore, designed training programmes to cater to women entrepreneurs, especially to uplift them such that they flourish in business and are able to contribute to the country," said Syed Rezwanul Kabir, managing director of SME Foundation.
SME Foundation, a state-run agency responsible for facilitating activities of small and medium enterprises, regularly organises such training programmes at its office in Dhaka and other venues across Bangladesh to give women entrepreneurs the much-needed confidence.
Since July 2008, the foundation organised 240 training programmes that were attended by 5,000 participants from all over the country. Each programme spanned five days.
The foundation provides training on developing entrepreneurs, management, market promotion, cluster-based skills, productivity strategies, total quality management and business communication.
"We have decided to include the internet in our training, to enable entrepreneurs harness their knowledge and skills and improve their end-products by gathering information on global trends," said Kabir.
The foundation is also providing training on fashion designing, to cater to the growing demand for these skills among women entrepreneurs, he told The Daily Star recently.
"Women entrepreneurs can do a fantastic job in business if they are provided with necessary support. The foundation is committed to encouraging women to come forward."
In a recent training programme on basic accounting and accounts management, participants said although they have run businesses for a while, they were not successful in managing income and expenditure of their firms in a systematic manner.
"This type of training helps us a lot," said Rumana Azam, owner of Senjuti Dreams in Mohammadpur, Dhaka, which sells 600 pieces of unstitched garments a month.
"I knew nothing about business accounting before participating in the workshop. Now I will be able to better manage my business.”
Rumana is running her business for four years now. She hopes to expand operations and set up her office at a permanent office, as she currently faces threats of eviction from her rented place.
Women entrepreneurs face many problems, including a lack of capital, infrastructure bottlenecks and bank credit.
The foundation also helps entrepreneurs get loans and attend fairs across the country, she said.
Saba Noureen, another trainee, said she looks to take part in more programmes to improve her skills in business management, accounting, computer literacy and internet use.
"I particularly face problems in sending photos of my products to foreign buyers. I have asked the foundation to arrange training for this.”
Noureen owns a fashion house called 'Mekhola' at Shekhertek, Mohammadpur. She employs 35 workers, produces home garments and fatuas, saris and salwar-kamezes.
She exports fatuas to Australia, Sweden and the US. Noureen said despite a growing demand for her products, she cannot expand operations because she has to maintain a family too.
Selina Deepa owns Feather Dolls that specialises in making dresses for brides and fashion shows in Dhaka.
A fashion designer by profession, Deepa said she attended a couple of training sessions run by the foundation, but the modules are mainly helpful to people who want to launch a business.
She said the country does not have institutes at the tertiary level where promising designers could receive education and training to grow further.
"Fashion awareness in the new generation is increasing. So, there is huge demand in Bangladesh for quality designers," Deepa said. She dreams of hosting a fashion show on the runways of Paris, the global fashion capital.
"But to realise my dreams, I have to attend appropriate higher courses in foreign universities. I must make it happen."
The foundation pairs up with Bangladesh Institute of Bank Management, National Productivity Organisation, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, National Association of Small and Cottage Industries, Women Chamber of Commerce and Industries, Boutique Association, Chittagong Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Banglacraft, Engineering Industries Owners Association, Cottage and Small Industries Association and Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution to help entrepreneurs.