The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), in partnership with Global Affairs Canada and the Government of Bangladesh, have held a National Consultation focusing on growth of women entrepreneurs as a strategy for poverty reduction, social well-being and sustainable economic growth.
This consultation was part of the five-year project titled ‘Catalyzing Women’s Entrepreneurship: Creating a Gender-Responsive Entrepreneurial Ecosystem’ which aims to create an enabling policy and business environment that enhances women entrepreneurs’ access to capital through innovative financing mechanisms as well as increase their use of ICT and digital solutions. The project is undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada.
“Entrepreneurs make up the backbone of Asia-Pacific economies and in Bangladesh we are seeing more women becoming involved in economic activities. The Government’s ambitious vision for a ‘Digital Bangladesh’ is supporting the promotion of digital innovations which will advance the country and bolster entrepreneurship. We need to build on this and ensure women entrepreneurs have the ability, skills and tools necessary to successfully start-up and expand their business,” said United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP, Ms Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, at the event.
Of the almost 8 million businesses in Bangladesh, 99.93 per cent are cottage or micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). Yet only 7.2 per cent are owned by women. Women MSMEs face various barriers to entrepreneurship, which include, amongst others, limited access to finance and ICT infrastructure, lack of financial and business knowledge and discriminatory social norms.
The national consultation in Bangladesh was inaugurated by Ms Kamrun Nahar, Secretary of Ministry of Women and Children Affairs, Government of Bangladesh. Opening the event, Ms Nahar said, “In recent years, Bangladesh has made significant social progress, as well as economic progress, working towards achieving the status of a middle-income country by 2021. The Ministry of Women and Children Affairs is committed to advancing women’s entrepreneurship and economic participation, which will support the advancement of Bangladesh as a whole.”
More than 80 policymakers, MSME representatives and other stakeholders participated in the consultation. Mr Safiqul Islam, Managing Director, SME Foundation concluded the event by stating: “The National Consultation today has generated in-depth insights to barriers faced by MSMEs and particularly women-owned MSMEs. The outcomes of today’s dialogue will contribute to ongoing work we are undertaking, in collaboration with ESCAP, assessing access to finance constraints MSMEs face in Bangladesh and identifying public and private sector actions which will catalyse entrepreneurship.”
Learn More: UN ESCAP