Empowering Women Entrepreneurs in Bangladesh

Social and cultural constructs create economic barriers for women, more so in emerging economies. In Bangladesh, access to finance remains the greatest hurdle for women entrepreneurs. Although women make up half of the labor force aged 15-49, they represent only 17% of those employed by cottage, micro, and small and medium enterprises (CMSMEs) that account for 99.93% out of 7.8 million businesses in the country.

To bring women into the mainstream economy, the Bangladesh Bank (BB) introduced policy initiatives to ease access to finance for female entrepreneurs through affordable and secure options for female entrepreneurs. The Bank opened a Women Entrepreneurs Development Unit in its head office and branch offices, advising all banks and financial institutions to open similar units. Banks and financial institutions across the country have been instructed to provide credit to new women entrepreneurs in the CMSME sectors. Every branch has been advised to identify at least three prospective women entrepreneurs who have not yet taken out any formal loans. Banks and financial institutions are to provide the necessary training for the selected entrepreneurs and financial services should be extended to at least one each year. All banks and financial institutions have been asked to consider authorizing loans for women entrepreneurs of up to BDT 2.5 million (USD 30,225) without collateral, but against a personal guarantee under the refinance facilities provided by the BB.