Reaffirming Bangladesh Bank’s (BB) commitment to promoting women entrepreneurship, bank governor Dr Atiur Rahman said, banks and non-bank financial institutions (NBFIs) have been asked for prioritization of women entrepreneurs in providing financial services.
“Promoting women entrepreneurship is one of our key policy interventions . . . half of our population is women and unless we engage them in activities where they have competitive edge over others we will be losing national output by under utilizing their skills, creative and innovative ideas,” said the governor while speaking at a seminar here, reports BSS.
First counselor and head of cooperation of EU delegation to Bangladesh Philippe Jaques, deputy governors Md. Abul Quasem and S.K. Sur Chowdhury, director of Sonali Bank Ltd. Selima Ahmed, first vice president of FBCCI Monowara Hakim Ali, DG of Bangladesh Institute of Bank Management (BIBM) Dr. Toufic Ahmed Chowdhury, among others, attended it.
Speaking at the session as the chief guest, Dr Atiur Rahman said every year 2,000,000 young individuals are joining the labor force as job seekers and half of these job seekers are women.
In the face of declining capacity of the public sector as a viable employer, self- employment and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have now become a potential lifeline to generate jobs, he said.
The governor said if these women are given access to financial services and other necessary supports are provided they will find their way to economic emancipation and play their due role in the inclusive economic development of the country.
During the last five years a paradigm shift has taken place in the policy regime of BB especially in the areas of SME and agriculture financing, said BB governor.
Atiur said women entrepreneurs help desk has been set up in branches of banks and NBFIs and regulatory provision for collateral free loan for women entrepreneurs up to Tk 25 lakh has been made.
For greater inclusion of marginal and home based women entrepreneurs, loan limit has been set at Tk 10,000 and group based lending permitted, he said, adding that capacity building training programs for women entrepreneurs has been taken and banks and NBFIs have been instructed to take capacity building initiatives for their existing and prospective women clients.
“We have refinanced a total of Tk 778 crore to 10,000 women entrepreneurs under BB refinance scheme and during the last one year, banking sector has financed Tk 395 crore to 3317 new women entrepreneurs which is 5 percent of the total new SME borrowers,” the governor added.
“We have engaged other public and private sector institutions in our journey . . . SME Foundation, Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC), Women Affairs Directorate have joined hands with us,” he said.
Moreover, BB has also engaged DCCI, FBCCI, Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce & Industry (BWCCI), Women Entrepreneur Association of Bangladesh (WEAB), Chittagong Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CWCCI) and many other private sector organizations in our initiatives, he added.
“Due to our policy support and refinance scheme, financing to women entrepreneurs have increased substantially over the last 4 years,” he disclosed.