Women entrepreneurs are getting less attention in the stimulus package and this iscausing many businesses to shut down.
Nasreen Fatema Awal, Women Entrepreneur Association of Bangladesh (WEAB) founder president, said this in an interview with The Business Standard.
The women entrepreneurs, usually, face difficulties in getting finance from banks. And Covid-19 made banks more reluctant to finance them, she said.
Under the stimulus package of Tk20,000 crore, the Bangladesh Bank instructed the banks to disburse at least 5 percent of their annual loan.
But, there has been no monitoring about the implementation of this provision, Nasreen, founder president of Bangladesh's first women trade organisation, said.
Products of women entrepreneurs have lied unsold as they are mainly domestic market-based ones. Since annual festivals like Bengali New Year have not been observed like previous years because of coronavirus, they could not sell the products, she said.
So, women entrepreneurs need government support to promote their products, Nasreen said.
The government can introduce an e-portal to display the products of women entrepreneurs to help them recover the losses caused by the virus outbreak, she suggested.
Lending rate for women entrepreneurs under the stimulus package should be brought down to 2.5 percent to 3 percent from 4 percent with one year grace period, the WEAB founder president said.
When Nasreen started business in 1997, with a cosmetic shop at Gulshan Avenue in the city, the business environment was not favourable for women entrepreneurs. But things have changed with a shift in social sentiment.
Nasreen built WEAB in 2000 to support women entrepreneurs. Now, she is the sole distributor of Johnson & Johnson, an American multinational corporation.
Women entrepreneurship have been growing fast inrecent times. Many women entrepreneurs' associations also sprang up which is a good sign. But Covid-19 disrupted the trend as many women entrepreneurs had to shut down businesses dueto financial crisis, she mentioned.
Covid-19 has taken a heavy toll on women entrepreneurs who retail their fashion, cosmetics, and other imported products through social media, accordingto a study.
Twenty-four percent of the women entrepreneurs, who were trying to reduce the loss in April by cancelling orders and selling off their stock, shut down businesses in June.
This grim picture came up in a survey conducted by Brac Institute of Governance and Development on female entrepreneurs who run their businesses through social media.
The study found that within one month after the first round of the survey, 121 employees were laid off. If things do not improve for these businesses, nearly 550 more people's jobs could be at stake within the next seven months.
Due to a nationwide shutdown, 79-84 percent of the entrepreneurs experienced lower revenue earnings than last year's Eid and Pahela Boishakh.
However, the study findings showed that the percentage of entrepreneurs who were confident that their businesses would bounce back had risen from to 21 percent in June from 15 percent in April.
With this, nearly half of the entrepreneurs now believed that it would take six months to nearly a year to recover from the loss they incurred.
Although fewer orders were cancelled in June compared to April, there had been an increase in the percentage of entrepreneurs who were giving discounts – from about 13 percent in April to 33 percent in June, according to the study.
Also, with a nearly 4 percent increase since April, 14 percent of the businesses were laying off their employees.
Nasreen said Covid-19 pushed women entrepreneurs to go for e-commerce platform to sell their products. But they lack training in technology.
So, she urged the ICT ministry to arrange more training programmes for women entrepreneurs on e-commerce business.
WEAB has now 7,000 members and it has been trying to support women entrepreneurs by providing training and showcasing their products, Nasreen informed.
Sheuti, a sales and distribution centre of WEAB, gives the chance to unprivileged women entrepreneurs – who cannot participatein the mainstream market – to showcase their products.
But the project has limited capacity. The government support can help WEAB increase the capacity of Sheuti, the WEAB founder president said.
Nasreen holds a position in multiple business organisations including Multimode group, MF Consumers Limited, Joongbo Multimode Chemicals, Lal Teer Livestock, NFM Limited, Lal Teer Seed, and Skyfly Tours and Travels.
She loves reading, travelling, singing, andempowering women.