Bangladesh is becoming an exciting hub of women empowerment while indomitable entrepreneurship spirit among the country’s women is being identified as main force of the womenfolk to include themselves in mainstream development, reports BSS.
According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), Bangladesh is now the second most gender equal country in Asia, top in South Asia and ranks 47th among 144 countries of the world in the Global Gender Gap Index.
However, it is also reality as like other developing countries, women entrepreneurs in Bangladesh also face different kinds of social and cultural obstacles hindrance with dual load of raising a family and running a business simultaneously.
As women empowerment is one of the core commitments of the current Awami League government, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina formulated and adopted the progressive ‘National Women Development Policy’ for the first time with a set of goals to socially, economically, politically and legally empower the women of Bangladesh, in 2011.
Apart from the perceived social and religious barriers, limited access to finance, business support services and finally bridging with the market constitute further impediments to women’s entree to existing opportunities.
To overcome these hurdles, the government provides loans at discounted interest to women as well as allocated Tk 1 billion as ‘Women Entrepreneurship Fund’ for mitigating their access to finance while formed ‘Joyeeta Foundation’ for facilitating market access to 18,000 women entrepreneurs across the country.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the ‘Joyeeta (winning woman)’ program under Women’s Affairs Department of Women and Children’s Affairs Ministry on November 17, 2011.
Subsequently, ‘Joyeeta Foundation’ was formed and a showroom named ‘Joyeeta’ set up on the 4th and 5th floor of Rapa Plaza in Dhanmondi with government funding.
The core vision of Joyeeta Foundation is to make a dedicated women friendly marketing network, run and managed exclusively by women entrepreneurs, from rural to urban, from production to marketing, through commercially employing women with enhanced capacity in different phases of the value and supply chain.
“Joyeeta Foundation does not do business itself rather women entrepreneurs do business directly using this platform ‘Joyeeta,” said Afroza Khan, Managing Director of the foundation. She said the foundation provides women entrepreneurs with the necessary knowledge and skills and loan assistance if required to produce products and run their businesses. At the end, she said the women entrepreneurs sell their products using their own showroom the ‘Joyeeta’ in Dhanmondi, the most exciting spot of shopping lovers.
Besides, the showroom, she said initiatives have also been taken to sell these products virtually online as well as to connect the women entrepreneurs with international buyers.
The government had also allocated one bigha of land to Dhanmondi Road No. 27 for setting up a permanent building of Joyeeta Foundation where construction of a multi-storey building for JoyeetaBhavan is underway currently.
Women and Children Affairs Secretary KaziRaushanAkhter said every year successful women are given ‘Joyeeta’ awards as well in various fields to motivate more women in entrepreneurship.
The Joyeeta platform has been helping specially the illiterate rural women entrepreneurs who do not have access to technical and financial support that can give a boost to their businesses from the domestic level to the commercial.
The women entrepreneurs are usually distraught by middlemen while shopkeepers harass them regarding timely payment even after selling their products.
Within a couple of years of the inception, the fame of ‘Joyeeta’ initiative was spread across the country while a great deal of enthusiasm and optimism has been seen among the women entrepreneurs centering the foundation.
Afroza said Joyeeta boasts of a stable supply chain between the suppliers and the buyers.
Previously, most of the women entrepreneurs used to market their products through an intermediary party to different urban boutique shops and wait for fairs to display their works, but now the Joyeeta showroom gives them opportunity to claim a fair price round the year, she said.
“In the past, I used to sell our products through some middlemen . . . but now I do it through Joyeeta directly with much better price,” said Raihana Rahim, an entrepreneur from Tangail who sells her own products atJoyeeta’s outlet in Dhanmondi.
Woman entrepreneurs sell different agricultural produce, processed foods, and handicrafts which includes jute, paper, glass, bamboo, cane, wood, metal, leather, home textiles, home accessories, clothes from the Joyeeta showroom which tagline is – ‘Bangladesh under one roof’.
“We run a small women’s organisation at our village where we used to knit our products at our boutiques and supply them to various vendors around the country”, says Selina from Manikganj, one of the sellers at Joyeeta.
“Thanks, the government that at last we have a platform where we can sell our products directly, not through any intermediary,” she said with delighted voice.
The rent of this 24,000 square feet area of Joyeeta outlet at Rapa Plaza is split among the government and the entrepreneurs, where the government pays 60 percent of the rent while the stall owners pay the rest.
A consultant team consisting of five members, experts in designing, product quality and marketing, is also available at Joyeeta foundation to provide free of cost consultation to the women entrepreneurs.