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.