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BWCCI Overcomes Challenges in Bangladesh

In May, the  Bangladesh Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BWCCI) received a fund of $1,350,388 to train 56 groups of 30 women entrepreneurs across Bangladesh.  This endeavor came with a challenge however, if we did not use all of the funds by June, the money would need to be returned.  Naturally, my staff questioned whether such a feat was even possible.

BWCCI_training

As an entrepreneur, I learned that opportunity is not a constant and when it arrives, we must take full advantage and use it to its potential.  BWCCI was established to benefit women entrepreneurs and help women build their businesses and we had no choice but to do our best to compete the mission at hand.  We increased our existing trainers and outsourced another 60.  After training them, I spoke to them and said, “Let’s work together and make the impossible possible!”

BWCCI_training2

Throughout the month of June we reviewed the existing module, planned our training sessions, purchased the necessary materials and implemented our programs.  In addition to battling poor infrastructure and the traffic jams that are so common in Bangladesh we lost three whole days due to a Mayoral election, budget proceedings, and a religious holiday!  Never the less, I am proud and happy to say that we completed the 56th batch on June 29th.  That means we provided training to 1,580 women throughout 26 districts of Bangladesh!

As a result, we are receiving funding to train an additional 16,000 women through June 2014! We look forward to continuing our empowerment of women entrepreneurs and hope to gain at least 600 additional members through this program.  The challenge starts now!

BWCCI, UNFPA Join Forces to Empower Women

BWCCI

On Tuesday, May 28th, the Bangladesh Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BWCCI) signed an agreement with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to carry out a 3 year program that aims to empower women in Bangladesh.  The project is titled, “Economic opportunities and sexual and reproductive health and rights- a pathway to empowering girls and women in Bangladesh” and has a budget of $527,888.

According to UNFPA Bangladesh representative, Arthur Erken, identifying and and addressing power imbalances is a critical aspect of promoting gender equality.  One major imbalance in Bangladesh is a limited role for women in their families when it comes to reproductive decision-making.  By increasing access to and utilization of information and services related to reproductive health, the project seeks to give women more autonomy to manage their own lives.

The 3-year project will also channel this increased autonomy towards economic empowerment by improving the entrepreneurial and technical knowledge and skills of women, which will allow them to start their own business enterprises.  When paired with increased control and knowledge of reproductive health, this initiative will tackle challenges of technical know-how and long-term sustainability with regards to women operated businesses.

Selima Ahmad
BWCCI

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Stories of Success from Bangladesh

The Bangladesh Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BWCCI) works to support their local women business community.  Offering services including training, capacity building, and advocacy, BWCCI has emerged as a strong civil society organization that helps women entrepreneurs develop the necessary skills and knowledge to be successful.

Working with USAID’s Democracy and Governance program, Promoting Governance, Accountability, Transparency, and Integrity (PROGATI) on fighting corruption, and with CIPE on access to credit, BWCCI has established regional working groups to aid women in their endeavors.  Here are a few stories of some of the women BWCCI has helped through their work.

 

“I was experiencing a lot of difficulty getting a loan from the bank, but with the support of our divisional BWCCI working group it became easier for me.”

At the age of 22, Konika Rani assumed responsibility for her family after the death of her husband.  Having started a business in 2005 called “Pankaj Boutique house” in Aditmari, Lalmonirhat she applied for loan at the Janata Bank, mortgaging her land to the bank in the process.  After 2 months, with the support of BWCCI, Konika received her first loan, in the amount of Tk20000, and repaid it within the scheduled timeframe. Following this, Konika applied for another loan from Janata Bank for Tk50000. However, the bank proposed her to only take Tk20000 again. In response, she informed the Rangpur Divisional working group of BWCCI and with the support of the Divisional Head, ACC, and Bank personnel she was able to receive Tk45000. Now, with the proper funds she can continue her business and fulfill her responsibilities to her family.

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Budgeting for Women in Bangladesh

Selima Ahmad (right)

 

The Bangladesh Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry hosted a roundtable with Finance Minister AMA Muhith entitled “National Budget 2012-13 and Women Entrepreneurs.”  Attended by members of parliament, NGO representatives, women activists, academicians, and the media, the event explored the possibilities for creating an environment in which women entrepreneurs could flourish.

Acting on a statement that “the government emphasizes women development in the greater inerest of the country,” Finance Minister Muhith pledged to allocate Tk 1 billion  ($12 million) as a special fund to promote the development of women entrepreneurs.  Muhith agreed to BWCCI’s request to release funds on the condition that the chamber develop a comprehensive plan on how the money will be used.  He noted that in the past, special funds for other sectors have been set aside but were misused because of weak implementation plans.

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New Showroom for Women Entrepreneurs to Open in Bangladesh

The Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BWCCI) is continuously working for women’s empowerment, the basic human rights of women against eve teasing and domestic violence, as well as equal participation for women in all spheres of life. BWCCI places a special focus on entrepreneurship development by persistently calling on policy makers to take action with regard to women entrepreneurs.

For the past ten years BWCCI has requested that the Government create a common retail outlet for women entrepreneurs to display and sell their products, as many micro and small entrepreneurs do not have the resources to do so on their own. BWCCI’s commitment to this goal has proven successful. Yesterday, Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced the launched of a new showroom located in Rapa Plaza, and spoke of aims to place similar showrooms in other districts. The Prime Minister also warned against all types of violence against women. BWCCI hailed this initiative and thanks all of its partners for their continued support.

A newspaper article detailing the announcement and the Prime Minister’s remarks can be read here.

Selima Ahmad
President, BWCCI

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Policy Recommendations to Support Women Entrepreneurs in Bangladesh

Women entrepreneurs in Bangladesh face a range of challenges, including social and economic barriers, and networking and management constraints. Some of these challenges can be addressed through targeted government policies, including allocation of sufficient budget funds to support women entrepreneurs. In recent years, the Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BWCCI) has been particularly active in promoting such policies. In particular, we are advocating the creation of a separate budget line item of one billion taka (approximately US $13.5 million) to create a National Women’s Entrepreneurship Development Fund. Such a fund could be designed to address various issues, including access to credit, training for women entrepreneurs, and better market access for women.

As more women in Bangladesh launch their own businesses, they are frequently unable to access the financing needed to expand. Currently, the Bank of Bangladesh (BB), the country’s central bank, operates a refinancing program for women offering interest rates of 10 percent on loans of up to 2.5 million taka (approximately US $33,874) against a personal guarantee. Nearly 2,600 women entrepreneurs took part in this program as of March 31, 2011, with approximately 1,800 bank loans and 800 loans from non-bank financial institutions (NBFIs). Over 1.8 billion taka (over US $24 million) has been lent out, but in our view, by 2012, the government should aim to double the number of women-owned enterprises getting bank loans. In particular, the government can expand credit guarantee programs and lowered interest rates for women entrepreneurs, set up a special window for financing, pre- and post investment credit counseling, monitor the disbursement credit to women, enable women to access credit without collateral, and even establishing a specialized women’s bank.

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And the Winners Are….

Last week the Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry announced its partnership with Eastern Bank Limited for the creation of a new award honoring influential and inspiring women entrepreneurs. The BWCCI-EBL Progressive Award seeks to recognize the women entrepreneurs of BWCCI who have achieved significant success in the field of business. The inaugural award ceremony was held on May 24th with around 300 women entrepreneurs, diplomats, bank personnel, media representatives, and members of civil society from across the country in attendance. Continue reading ‘And the Winners Are….’ »

BWCCI Launches 2011 Progressive Award

Earlier this week the Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BWCCI) held a press conference with Eastern Bank Limited (EBL) to announce the BWCCI-EBL Progressive Award honoring women entrepreneurs. The award is being launched this year to commemorate 100 years of International Women’s Day and seeks to recognize the women entrepreneurs of BWCCI who have achieved significant success in the field of business. This year six successful women entrepreneurs from six divisions will receive the award. BWCCI also recognizes the important role the media has played in its journey, therefore two representatives from print and electronic media who have made noteworthy contributions to the development of women entrepreneurs in Bangladesh will be honored as well. Continue reading ‘BWCCI Launches 2011 Progressive Award’ »

Proposal of Tk 100 Crore for Women Entrepreneurship Development Fund in the Upcoming National Budget

April 21, 2011

Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BWCCI) organized a workshop on ‘FY 2011-12 Budget and Women Entrepreneurs’ in cooperation with USAID-PRAGATI on 21 April, 2011 at CIRDAP Auditorium, Dhaka. The main objective of this program was to ensure the reflection of women entrepreneurship development in the national budget. The Seminar was held with the presence of Mr. Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, Honorable Minister, Ministry of Finance, Government of Bangladesh as the Chief Guest and Dr. Atiur Rahman, Governor, Bangladesh Bank as the Special Guest. Selima Ahmad President of Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BWCCI) chaired over the program.

Continue reading ‘Proposal of Tk 100 Crore for Women Entrepreneurship Development Fund in the Upcoming National Budget’ »

Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry Members Rally to Fight Corruption

bwcci-anti-corruption-day-rally

International Anti-Corruption Day was held on December 9th to raise awareness about the issue of corruption, as well as draw attention to ways in which corruption can be combated and prevented. The Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BWCCI) members from Khulna observed the day by holding a rally as seen in the photo above.

Selima Ahmad, President
BWCCI

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