Bangladesh has taken a lead in women empowerment in South Asia as they are showing their competence and courage in starting new jute ventures, contributing to bringing a positive change in society.
“It gives me an immense pleasure whenever I see satisfaction in the eyes of my international buyers,” said Afsoma Asif, a middle-aged women entrepreneur who manufactures and exports diversified jute products.
Soma, who achieved Outstanding Business Woman Award for her innovation in making various diversified jute products even shoe, started work with jute a decade back with a dream to revive the country’s glory of golden fiber, reports BSS.
“It was not easy when I started the market even in Bangladesh was not ready to accept the diversified jute products. But, I was determined to do something innovative with jute,” said Soma as like a confident business person.
She said the demand of jute products are increasing in the international market day by day. “We are trying to catch these international markets. We must add value to our jute product to attract the global market,” she observed.
Mentioning that many Bangladeshi entrepreneurs have started to export their jute diversified products, Soma said, “We want to increase the volume more.”
She underlined the need for proper promotion and marketing of the country’s diversified jute products in the international market to further flourish the sector. “If everyone including the policy makers come forward to promote our products, we can secure a stronghold in the international market,” she said.
Soma urged the young entrepreneurs to work with the jute products with their talent and innovations. “I would like to see the youth will carry our efforts with smartness,” she added.
Telling her story becoming a entrepreneurs, Soma said she started her business with only Taka 15,000 by setting up a small factory with only two workers.
“It’s not easy for a woman in our society to become a business person as every woman needs to do households work whatever she does outside,” she said.
She thanks her husband and family members to give her utmost support mentally and financially in becoming a successful entrepreneur. “Without family support, it’s very difficult for our women to be self-reliant,” nostalgic Soma said.
In the beginning, Soma basically designed boutiques dresses for women and children. “At one stage, I got interested on jute products. I had carried out a survey on existing diversified jute products here. But I found something is missing in our products. I started to work on that in 2010,” she said.
Soma, a finance graduate of the Dhaka University, said the quality of raw jute here is very good. “When we export raw jute, we don’t able to get high rate. But the price goes high when we add value in jute,” she said.
Soma said she is not alone, more women are becoming entrepreneurs in the country and some of them has started work with diversified jute products.
In recent years, the rate of new business formation by women has significantly risen in Bangladesh.
According to the Economic Census 2013, the number of female headed establishments is 0.56 million (7.21 per cent) while it was 0.10 million (2.80 per cent) in 2001 and 2003.
The present government has formulated policies and programs for women their betterment.
The government initiatives for women empowerment include identification of women entrepreneurs, ensuring women’s easy access to markets, training for entrepreneurs, supporting services for financial and credit institutions and promoting of product development at home and international market.
According to Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) data, in July- February of the last fiscal year, Bangladesh earned $560.56 million from jute and jute goods.
Of the total, jute goods fetched $ 86.85 million, jute yarn and twine $341.25 million, and jute sacking and bags fetched $62.64 million, and other goods, $70 million.
According to Jute Diversification Promotion Center (JDPC), there are 232 items of diversified jute goods, including jute bags, purses, bed sheets, sofa covers, blankets, curtains, floor mats, sweaters, blazers, gents and ladies shoes, sarees, ornaments and ornament boxes, ladies three pieces, and home decor items.