Notwithstanding the fact that considerable changes have taken place in the socio-economic landscape of the country over the years, entrepreneurship is still viewed as primarily a man's domain here. And whatever in number our womenfolk have come forward to stand on their own feet going against the prevailing social prejudice face hurdles at almost every step.
Inadequate access to bank loan against the actual demand is one of the major barriers to the growth in number of women entrepreneurs in the country. It is disturbing to not that merely 19 per cent of the total loans disbursed by the state-own and private banks in the country are distributed among the small and medium enterprise (SME) sector. But what is more disturbing is that women entrepreneurs get only 4 per cent of these SME loans.
Even though various commendable steps, such as credit disbursement among women entrepreneurs at a single-digit interest rate, taken by Bangladesh Bank have resulted in a notable increase in the number of beneficiaries over the last few years, the overall environment is not conducive for women entrepreneurship. In fact, it is far away from attaining global standard. In the developed countries, 25 per cent of the industrial and business institutions are owned by women entrepreneurs. However, the rate is less than 10 per cent in Bangladesh while half of the country's total workforce are women.
The complexities over getting a bank loan are not the only barriers to the scaling up of women entrepreneurs. There are some other obstacles as well. Our society, despite going through much transformation, is yet to shed its negative attitude towards women-run businesses. Women entrepreneurs often face domestic violence and other forms of barriers from society and family.
It is also perplexing that women entrepreneurs are mostly engaged in some limited numbers of conventional business sectors, like boutiques, beauty parlors, fashion designing, interior designing, poultry, home-made cooking, confectionary, restaurants, floriculture, garments, cottage industry and tailoring etcetera. But their participation must be ensured at every other avenue of business and commerce in order to attain aspired economic development for the country.
Therefore, besides removing the loan-related hassles, the government needs to take necessary steps to address these issues in order to facilitate increased participation of women entrepreneurs in the economy. It must go for some policy recast, if necessary, along with formulation and implementation of pragmatic measures in order to incorporate our women in the economic mainstream.
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