Sunday, December 29, 2013

"Women have a responsibility to both their family and their business. Find the balance" - Ayesha Edib Khanom

In February 2003, Ayesha Edib Khanom’s life changed forever. Her husband, who served as a Major in Bangladesh Army suffered from a massive heart attack and subsequently retired from his service in mid-2004. Ayesha was a loving wife and mother to two young girls at the time, who was then left with the daunting task of finding work to produce an income for her family. This is her story. 

Although Ayesha came from a well educated family, she had spent the last 17 years as a dedicated housewife and had very little knowledge of business outside the home. For many women in this position, the thought of becoming an entrepreneur would seem impossible, but for Ayesha, it was her only option of ensuring a good life for her and her family. When asked whether Ayesha was apprehensive about starting her own business, she recalled the overwhelming fear of what would happen to her family if she didn’t and explained that people will do extraordinary things when faced with limited opportunities. 

Ayesha was very resourceful when starting her first business. She used the contacts she made as an army wife, found a gap in the industry, and became a general supplier to the Bangladesh Army. Her first business came out of necessity to provide for her family. However, once she got a taste of life as an entrepreneur, she never looked back. In 2012, Ayesha started Unique Catering Service and the following year, moved into both the construction and garment export business. 

Becoming a female entrepreneur in Bangladesh is not an easy task. Not only do women have to succeed in the business world and set the precedent for future businesswomen, but also ensure their family life does not suffer the consequence. Ayesha believes that the challenge for many working women is finding that right balance between her family and business. She noted that women should be willing to treat their business as having a second family and be willing to devote an equal amount of care and attention. 

Ayesha had great insight into the differences on the social and economic situation between women in rural and urban settings, explaining that there cannot be a one-size-fits-all business model for women across the country. She went on to identify possible strategic plans to advance both the urban and rural entrepreneur, believing that women running businesses in urban settings require higher education and proper training in technology, in order to advance their SMEs into larger international companies. As for female entrepreneurs in rural areas, Ayesha emphasized a need to develop not only the economic situation, but also improve the social mindset of women by helping them understand their rights. As well as include training that increases women’s confidence and motivation to succeed in business. 

Ayesha is incredibly positive when looking to the future of women in Bangladesh. She understands how important entrepreneurs are to the development of the economy and also appreciates the impact NGOs have had on the country, especially in the rural areas. She went on to say that she believes in the next fifty years, women in Bangladesh will be empowered and there won’t be a difference between a woman in this country compared to the most independent woman anywhere else in the world. Furthermore, she acknowledged the role Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce & Industry (BWCCI) has had in the transformation of women entrepreneurs in the country. She understood that businesswomen in Bangladesh face an array of difficulties on a daily basis and appreciated the support and advice offered by the chamber, as well as the networking opportunities offered to each of the members. 

When asked where Ayesha gained her strength to become an independent successful business woman, she simply replied, “I understand that nothing is given in life – you have to earn it and I have faith that God is with me to go it alone”. What’s remarkable about Ayesha and so many other women entrepreneurs in Bangladesh is that she didn’t allow her misfortune to dictate her life. Rather, she learned from her hardships and used it to completely transform her life. Ayesha is truly an astonishing woman and BWCCI is proud to have her as one of our members.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” – Alice Walker

There is no denying that the gender gap between men and women has diminished throughout history. We are no longer worlds apart, yet we are still oceans away. Whether it was granted or stolen, women have worked hard for the rights and freedoms they enjoy today. In 2013, women are beginning to see a world with fresh eyes; a world where they can voice an opinion, choose to work, and have a right to vote. It is bittersweet to rejoice in the freedoms we have today, since these are freedoms that should have never been denied in the first place. When looking back on how far we’ve come, don’t forget to look to the future to ensure our struggle will be carried out by generations to come. Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce & Industry (BWCCI) is comprised of over 3000 members who are doing just that. Despite the individual hardships each member has faced on her journey to becoming an entrepreneur in Bangladesh, they have collectively joined together to form the country’s first Chamber of Commerce exclusively working on women’s economic and social empowerment. 

The number of women represented in the labor force is rising around the world. We must now find ways to enhance their skills and talents to ensure a woman’s ability to increase her income and ultimately experience economic independence. BWCCI has been dedicated to providing women entrepreneurs across the country with opportunities to take part in capacity building training workshops, as well as tirelessly working to find ways to reduce the difficulty women entrepreneurs experience in accessing loans. One of BWCCI’s greatest achievements this year was the successful completion of the project “Promoting Women Entrepreneurship in Bangladesh”, which trained over 900 women entrepreneurs across the country in partnership with the Bangladesh Bank and Asian Development Bank. The project initiatives included the implementation of a refinancing scheme,  the attempt to involve financial institutes in the SME sector, a priority to complete women entrepreneurs’ collateral free loan applications, incorporating a Women Dedicated Desk in scheduled banks and PFIs, and reducing interest rates to as little as 10% for women entrepreneurs.  

BWCCI believes that by continuing to mobilize and empower women entrepreneurs in Bangladesh, it can mold them into economic agents with the power to change the country. 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

BWCCI hails allocation of 100 cr. taka for women entrepreneurs in national budget 2012-13

Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce & Industry (BWCCI) congratulates the Government and the Finance Minister for allocating 100 crores taka as grant for women entrepreneurs in the national budget 2012-13. We believe the proposed budget for the fiscal year 2012-13 announced by the Honorable Finance Minister on 7 June, 2012 at the parliament will accelerate the development of our country. The endeavor taken by the Govt. as per the proposal of BWCCI has made us more hopeful as an organization representing women entrepreneurs. We believe that women will be more empowered and women entrepreneurs will contribute more to the overall development initiative of the country.

In addition to allocating 100 crores taka, Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce & Industry recommends the followings also to be incorporated in the revised budget 2012-13:

 - Introducing tax-free income limit to Tk. 3,000,000 for women
 -15% reserved quota in the Equity and Entrepreneurship Fund (EEF)
 - Introducing separate Women entrepreneurship development policy
 - Reserved quota in economic zone and industrial parks for women entrepreneurs

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tk 10cr for climate-hit micro women entrepreneurs urged by BWCCI Chief

Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BWCCI) has demanded an allocation of Tk 10 crore for micro women entrepreneurs in disaster prone areas. BWCCI President Selima Ahmad at a seminar on 22 March 2012, Thursday said at the city's CIRDAP auditorium that due to climate change, women and children are the most affected so initiatives should be taken by the government to take more projects where women entrepreneurship can be explored and undertake projects to build their climate resilient capacities, create market linkages for them so that they can continue their economic activities by adapting climate change. BWCCI in cooperation with Foreign and Commonwealth, UK organized the seminar under the title of ’’Climate Resilient Initiatives for Rural Women Entrepreneurs'. 

Environment and Forests Minister Dr. Hasan Mahmud MP was the chief guest of the seminar while Selima Ahmad was in the chair. Various stakeholders working for women development including representatives from NGO's, women activists, journalists, general members and directors of BWCCI participated in the event.

Dr. Hasan said that Bangladesh is the first country to take a comprehensive strategy and action plan for climate change. He said that to fight with climate change proper understanding of the political leaders, proper understanding of CSOs, proper understanding of Women and children are extremely needed. He appreciated BWCCI’s initiative saying that this organization has actually gone out to the affected areas and extended their support to the vulnerable women groups there. He ensured his support to BWCCI’s climate resilient initiatives.

Selima Ahmad requested all to work towards integrating those measures into development cooperation climate projects that go beyond direct climate related aspects.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

BWCCI joins with Every Woman Every Child global effort

Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BWCCI) has made commitment to raise awareness about cervical cancer by disseminating information about cervical cancer and its prevention to 30,000 Bangladeshi women, said a release Tuesday.

The Chamber will also take initiatives to motivate 20,000 young mothers to be inoculated to prevent cervical cancer and 30,000 women to do paps smears test annually.

BWCCI president Selima Ahmad made the commitment at the United Nations Every Woman Every Child private sector dinner meeting with the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon which was held at a city hotel.

The theme of the meeting was 'Women's and Children's Health in Bangladesh: Challenges, Solutions and Innovations'.

The Chamber will conduct the campaign by disseminating the information through leaflets, letters, counseling, hotline centres, training programmes, meetings and roundtable discussions by 2016.

Ms. Ahmad expressed her solidarity with the unprecedented global efforts of Every Woman Every Child on behalf of BWCCI.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Curbing corruption for women entrepreneurship development

Information is like a weapon to fight against corruption. One of the basic rights of all individuals is access to information. For a business person, trade information is a vital element for the development of entrepreneurship as well as to avoid corruption if some one faces any problem of corruption. So proves the case of Ms. Sharmin Hasan Bony.

Bony, a women entrepreneur of Khulna, runs a Boutique business named “Sawpno Choan Boutique”. Since her childhood she has been sincere and artistic. Using her creative skills she started her own business but when she wanted to expand and regularize it she came across some problems. As a member of BWCCI, she participated in various awareness building trainings and gained many important business related information. With the help of her newly gained knowledge and skills, Bony was able to face the problems in her way to success.  Among them one is mention worthy how she tackled a corruption related problem.

On 6 March, 2011 she went to the local City Corporation Office to process her trade license but she was asked for extra charge. She knew the fee for issuing a trade license is much less of what the officer was telling her. So asked for additional charge, she reacted upon this saying it is not legal to ask or give extra money to get it. The officer did not pay heed to her and denied any assistance. The same day she went to BWCCI’s Anti Corruption Hotline Centre to check the information about Trade license which she learnt from participating in Anti corruption training. The next day, she went to the City Corporation Office again and being asked for extra money for trade license again, she showed her BWCCI Membership ID to the concerned officer. She then showed him the Citizen Charter where amount for trade license was mentioned to be Taka 260/=. So she gave him the exact fee instead of the officer’s extra demand of taka 560/= and  finally she got her trade license without taking part in corruption.                                                                                                                                                                

Monday, July 4, 2011

Smriti’s small step in fighting corruption

BWCCI has always been vocal against corruption in business and has undertaken many activities to increase awareness among women entrepreneurs so that they engage themselves into action of reducing corruption and run their business in proper ways. One of such activities are capacity building training on avoiding corruption. These trainings have provided women entrepreneurs with the skills and information necessary to avoid corruption in business places.  Today we will share a story with you where an entrepreneur takes a small step in fighting corruption using her knowledge and confidence gained from BWCCI training.

Smriti working in her shop

When Ms. Smriti Parvin started her shop ‘Projapati Boutique and Tailors’ at Rajshahi, she was aware of the reality that many obstacles would come in her way. She realized the grim fact more closely when in every step she took to survive her business, she was facing corruption problems. Then in 2010 she took part in an awareness building training on anticorruption organized by BWCCI in cooperation with USAID-PROGATI. The training highlighted  on the core business related areas which are mainly corrupted and provided information to participants on how to equip themselves against those.

So during last January, 2011, when she went to the City corporation office in her district for trade license she came across a man who issues trade license. He informed her that she would have to pay 400 taka for issuing a trade license. Smriti remembered the learning from her training that trade license is one of the major problem areas where women entrepreneurs falls victims to corruption. “I was feeling some wrongdoing in his approach and refused giving him the money. I was committed not to falling victims to corruption again and decided to gather more information.”

Being suspicious of the man’s attitude, she demanded to see his supervisor. After much effort, she managed to meet with the supervisor and learnt about the actual amount to issue a trade license which is 200 taka only. She then informed him about the man in his office who asked her for extra money. The supervisor instantly took action against the man and finally, on 28 January 2011 Smriti was able to get a trade license legally.

Actually, sometimes all we need is to take a small step and raise our voices to make things proper!! Isn't that true!!!!!