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VOL 21 NO 139 REGD NO DA 1589 | Dhaka, Wednesday, April 2 2014
Posted : 02 Apr, 2014 00:00:00 AA-A+
Inequity, poor networks hurdles for South Asian women entrepreneurs
Speakers at a symposium say

FE Report

Speakers at a symposium Tuesday identified deep-rooted discrimination, insufficient networks and limited access to credit as some of the major hurdles for South Asian women to become successful entrepreneurs, although they represent half of the population of the region.

They also noted that women's role and participation in regional connectivity and trade has been far less than expected. The benefit of globalization and high growth rate has not been trickled down to society, they added.

They suggested not to leave behind half of the population, which will rather hamper economic growth, as women's empowerment not only benefits them but also the nation as a whole.

These observations came at the inaugural ceremony of a three-day symposium on 'South Asia Women's Entrepren-eurship: Strengthening Women's Entrepreneurship in South Asia' at a city hotel.

The US Embassy in Dhaka and The Asia Foundation organized the event, where women entrepreneurs from the SAARC countries and Myanmar are participating.

State minister for women and children affairs Meher Afroz Chumki was present in the programme as the chief guest. US ambassador Dan W Mozena, Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dhaka (MCCI) president Rokia Afzal Rahman, and Asia Foundation country representative Hasan Majumder were present as the special guests.

In her speech, Meher Afroz said as women have lack of market accessibility, they have to sell their products through middlemen, and thereby are deprived of profit. She stressed on need-based training for women entrepreneurs.

Dan Mozena said the entrepreneurs of South Asia have faced great obstacles, like - deep ingrained discrimination that a woman cannot succeed in business, insufficient networks, limited access to credit, and gender-based violence etc.

Referring to his experience of working in this region he said, "Throughout my over four decades of service in development, I have learnt women who are the backbone of their families and indeed backbone of their nations."

He said if any nation is serious about development, then it must be serious about working with women and that's the bottom line - development and progress are driven by women.

Terming women as the critical agents of change he said no country can get ahead, if it leaves half of its people behind and women are the ones who lead the way.

He called upon the participants towards building enterprises, generating investment, creating opportunities, and empowering and inspiring other women along the way.

Sharing her experience of becoming a woman entrepreneur, Rokia Afzal Rahman said when she went for a loan or purchased a land on her own, the society did not accept these as normal. There were lots of surprises.

"But the scenario has changed in a great way, thanks to our rural women," said Ms Rahman, adding: it has changed because of these rural women, as access to finance is at their doorstep and they do not need to go to formal banks.

She said Bangladesh has success stories in micro-finance, as 20 million women are in micro-credit programmes, supporting another 100 million, and it has transformed rural women's life in a great way. Social structure has changed, as micro-finance has not only brought change economically but socially also.

"Bangladesh has been able to achieve its first target of MDG, which is poverty reduction in 2010. We have 80 per cent people in villages, and we have addressed the villages," said the former adviser to the caretaker government.

Ms Rahman emphasized using information and communication technology (ICT) and internet to expand networking.

Hasan Majumder said unfortunately women's role and participation in regional connectivity and trade has been far less than expected. Women represent half the population of the region, but their participation has been minimum.

He said with the rise of Asia, its time for the Asian countries to cooperate and become an integrated market of their own. Asian region is full of potentials, but there is a long way to go to take full advantage of all it has to offer.

"The deepest challenges for South Asia are continuing inequality and prevailing poverty."

The benefit of globalisation and high growth rate has not been trickled down to society. There has been improvement in education, sanitation, and infant and maternal mortality. But these improvements are slow compared to the overall economic growth, he added.

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Inequity, poor networks hurdles for South Asian women entrepreneurs | TRADE & MARKET | The financial express