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.
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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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