Contribution of women in the economy is very important for the growth of socio-economic environment of Bangladesh. Without a meaningful and active participation of women, half of the total population, in regular economic activities, a dynamic and sustainable economy is impossible. In view of the need to bring the rural womenfolk in the development stream of the country, both the Government, the NGOs and other related agencies have provided ample opportunities to promote entrepreneurial skill among women. Income-generating activities, credit facilities, skill training, market opportunities have all combined to pave the way for the emergence of entrepreneurial development among women in rural Bangladesh.
Bangladesh has undertaken systematic reforms across all sectors in the last decade with an emphasis on the initiatives to increase women’s participation through laws, international conventions, and affirmative actions to meet quotas to ensure women’s participation (Groundwork, 2002).
It appears that women have brought a social and economic change; and opened up a new dimension in the business area through their participation in different socio-economic activities in Bangladesh.
Statement of the Problem:
Mainstreaming women in industrial activities can substantially contribute towards economic growth and their empowerment. In order to support women to release their creative potentials as entrepreneurs innovative and specialized support services are needed. Although some specialized funds and programs have been undertaken to facilitate credit towards small businesses with more relaxed conditions but in practice, in most of the cases, entrepreneurs are required to offer collateral to guarantee loan repayment.
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Majority of the women do not possess any assets and cannot formally offer the necessary securities against loans. Due to the complexities in the social environment and administrative structure, women’s entrepreneurship in Bangladesh is more challenging. Many social and operational constraints continue to restrict women from starting and running economic enterprises. But the development of women’s entrepreneurship can offer excellent opportunities for development of one half of the population and for overall socio-economic progress of the country. Objectives of the Study:
The purpose of the study is to investigate the available support services of women entrepreneurship to ensure its growth and development in Bangladesh. To achieve this objective the following specific objectives are outlined: a) To study the available support services of women entrepreneurs in Bangladesh. b) To explore the constraints and challenges faced by women entrepreneurs. c) To suggest some policy recommendations to overcome these constraints.
Support Services for Women Entrepreneurs in Bangladesh: The importance of women entrepreneurs in the national development process has been acknowledged by successive governments and steps initiated to realize these objectives. There are following specific areas where women entrepreneurs need supportive assistance: Legal assistance includes transparent regulation for getting Trade license etc. as well as other processes.
Financing helps to reduce interest rate, easy access to loan, and Guarantor free loan for women entrepreneurs. Marketing assistance should be built among people to use local products and market should be created abroad through fair and other promotional campaigns. Technology includes continuous product/service quality control, quality enhancement through adopting new technology, tax reduction on imported new machinery etc. Business management includes a range of activities like HR, employee handling, customer management, record keeping, costing, inventory management, procurement, strategic positioning and so on.
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(Source: Morshed, 2008, P.22)
The support services provided by various financial and credit institutions as well as by some public and private institutions have been examined in this section. Women Entrepreneurship Related Policies And Objectives In Various Five Year Plan Of Bangladesh: The importance of women entrepreneurship in Bangladesh has been acknowledged first in her Second Five year Plan (1980-85).
It emphasized creating a congenial atmosphere for women’s increased participation in development through expanding opportunities for skill development, credit and entrepreneurship development program. The same policies and programs were adopted in the Third Five Year Plan (1985-1990).
The Fourth Five Year Plan (1990-95) placed women within the context of macro framework with multi-sectorial thrust. D
uring which women were brought under various credit programs mainly for developing micro entrepreneurship among the poor and disadvantaged women. The gender policies and objectives adopted in the Fifth Five Year Plan (1997-2002) as many as 24 goals and objectives are set for development of women and children in the country. The Government of Bangladesh has set distinct strategies in its National Action Plan (NAP) for the development of the women entrepreneurship: In Adoption of a comprehensive sustainable industrial policy that will promote equity for women and men; Ensure women’s easy access to markets;
Develop entrepreneurial skills of the women;
Provide infrastructure facilities for women entrepreneurs;
Support research, evaluation and action oriented programs of industry particularly for women engaged in the industrial sector.
The SME Foundation has been recommended a gender action plan in September 2007. The Gender Action Plan (2008-2012) extended business support services towards SME women entrepreneurs by following activities: Organize National and International trade fair for women entrepreneurs. Advocate for insurance facilities for SME.
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Advocate for reducing custom and excise duties for SME women entrepreneurs. These goals and objectives, if implemented properly will definitely contribute with the participation of women in every sphere of our national life.