Dhaka, Thursday, February 22, 2018

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Women entrepreneurs face hurdles despite supportive policies

DHAKA, Jan 27, 2018 (BSS) - Though Kohinoor Begum is known as a successful entrepreneur in the Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) sector in her neighborhood in Jessore district, she is still facing various problems to run business like many other women entrepreneurs in Bangladesh.

For bringing women in the mainstream of economic activities, Bangladesh Bank has taken a number of initiatives to ensure access of women entrepreneurs to financial facilities on easy terms and conditions.

But due to the lack of monitoring of those initiatives and other barriers, most women, like Kohinoor Begum, are forced to rely on personal funding, including meeting working capital requirements, in the initial stage.

"I started my business with only Taka 300 and 120 kilograms (kg) of paddy in 1992, but now I am proprietor of an auto rice mill, a dairy and a poultry firm," said Kohinoor, who came into business to maintain her family that include her sick husband and two little children.

She said, "I had no alternative other than going for business as my food godown worker husband lost his legs in an accident. I had confidence on myself about doing something, but funding was the key problem as none was willing to give me credit as I am a woman."

Despite lots of social and financial barriers, Kohinoor said, she established M/S Kohinoor Enterprise in 1993 and started a new journey to run her family.

Due to lack of mortgage, she said, no bank agreed to give her loans. At last in 2002, she got a loan of Taka 2 lakh from BRAC Bank Limited and that was a turning point for her to be a successful entrepreneur.

Later, she received Taka 10 lakh as loan in 2010 from Southeast Bank Limited, Jessore Branch and used it in purchasing paddy as raw material of her business. She has already repaid the loans. She also expanded her business by establishing poultry and dairy farms.

Besides meeting her family needs from the earnings of her business, Kohinoor used to spend a part of her income for social welfare like helping the widows, developing sanitation system and distributing warm clothes among the poor.

But recently, Kohinoor has become a bank defaulter. She borrowed Taka 25 lakh from the BASIC Bank Limited in 2012 for her dairy farm. In the initial stage, she repaid the installments regularly. But for lack of marketing knowledge, she incurred losses in her dairy farm and ultimately become a bank defaulter.

At the initial stage of her business, there was no employee to help her in running the enterprise. But gradually, the number of her employees increased to 26 by the end of 2013. At present, only eight employees are working for the enterprise.

Talking to BSS, Manager for Women Entrepreneurs Development Wing of SME Foundation M Mashudur Rahman said mortgage, safety and marketing are the major problems for a women entrepreneur in Bangladesh.

He said bankers and all others would have to change their mind and accept a woman entrepreneur as an entrepreneur for giving proper supports, including finance and training to run a business efficiently.

"SME foundation has provided supports to over 12,000 entrepreneurs across the country. Out of the total entrepreneurs, over 70 percent are women," he added.

It is noticed that the issues and challenges of a woman-run SME are not much different from the issues of other SMEs.

As the government wants to establish gender equality, it must introduce some specific measures for women entrepreneurs to encourage them so that their potentials get tapped.