Women entrepreneurs in small and medium enterprises are facing hurdles mainly due to both limited finances and market access, a study has found.
Most women seek easy access to information on trade policies, success stories, start-up capital and skill training for pitching their products.
What is more, poor networking and communication constrain them to access broader markets, said the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS).
The state-owned think tank recently revealed its study styled 'Women Entrepreneurs in SMEs: Bangladesh Perspective 2017' to explore the present status of women entrepreneurs.
A provision of special credit support for women entrepreneurs under the refinancing scheme could not reach even the 15-per cent quota for them.
This was mainly due to their weak business plan, poor paperwork, unavailability of guarantors and similar problems, the study showed.
However, creating opportunities for women and developing a business-friendly atmosphere will encourage others to start a business.
More than 67 per cent of the entrepreneurs have no past experience in taking part in economic activity.
Initially, the majority of female entrepreneurs made investments from their own savings (63.38 per cent).
A certain share of investments came from husbands' earnings/savings (7.03 per cent), bank loans (18.57 per cent) and credit from NGOs (6.16 per cent).
According to the study, credit for women is limited to only around Tk 0.3 million with high interest rate and processing time.
Around half (58 per cent) the entrepreneurs apply for bank loans and most of them succeed in getting funds.
Credit through banks should be strengthened and SME Foundation should support women entrepreneurs to get access to credit, the study suggested.
The majority of women entrepreneurs in Bangladesh belong to the 31-50 age cohort, mostly married.
However, 10.8 per cent of them are either separated or divorced or widowed. Only 2.0 per cent are unmarried.
This indicates the traditional norm of preference for salaried jobs for young unmarried women, also highlighting unmarried women's difficulty getting start-up capital from their family.
In most cases, women can start their enterprises with their own savings.
One-fifth of them are found to have very young children. As such, many face difficulty utilising their full entrepreneurial skills.
Some women chose to become entrepreneurs as their business is mostly run from home and they can avail flexible working hours.
About 26 per cent of them are graduates while 24 per cent have education below secondary level.
The women's educational status varied across sectors.
For example, those involved in software development, leather, pharmaceuticals, education and health sectors have relatively higher levels of education compared to average education level in other sectors.
A large segment of women involved in agro-based business or apparel production have an education level up to secondary school certificate.
Not much general education is required for this kind of business rather skill of running a business is sufficient.
Experience is thus not always necessary to do business. However, women struggle to get necessary information on paperwork needed to run a business, the BIDS study stated.
The BIDS study made a set of recommendations.
A chapter on entrepreneurship should be included in the educational curriculum from an early stage to encourage girls to do business independently.
More and more women instructors should be included in the team dedicated to deliver skill training to potential entrepreneurs.
Credit facilities should be more gender-friendly.
Fund for women entrepreneurs sanctioned in the national budget should be utilised properly.
Organising frequent national, international and local trade fairs could go a long way to expand market, diversify products and improve quality.
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