May 26, 2013 | 06:49 AM (BD Time)
26 May, 2013 Sunday
Challenges facing women entrepreneurs
Despite all their family and social problems, women have struggled hard to achieve their own identity. Women from all classes of Bangladesh want to stand up before everyone in their own right and not as someone's daughter or wife. Women can be a very caring homemaker, but at the same time she can prove to be a highly skilled Entrepreneur, an efficient employee, an administrator if they choose to be. Realizing that the advancement of women can not be prevented patriarchal society is changing its attitude toward women. There has been a gradual change in how people behave with working women. In the work place and at home people are now welcoming women.
Women entrepreneurs constitute less than 10% of the total business entrepreneurs in Bangladesh whereas women in advanced market economies own more than 25% of all businesses. It is heartening to note that despite many barriers, a new women's entrepreneur class has arisen in the country taking on the challenge to work in a male-dominated, competitive and complex economic and business environment. Not only have their entrepreneurship improved their living conditions and earned more respect in the family and the society, but they are also contributing to business and export growth, supplies, employment generation, productivity and skills development of the country. A recent United Nations report concluded that economic development is closely related to the advancement of women. "In countries where women have advanced, the economy has usually been steady. By contrast, in countries where women have been restricted, the economy has been stagnant."
Women's entrepreneurship is not an easy task. "Becoming an entrepreneur is an evolution of encountering, assessing, and reacting to a series of experiences, situations, and events produced by political, economic, social and cultural changes." Given the complexities in the social environment and administrative structure, women's entrepreneurship in Bangladesh is more challenging. Many social and operational constraints continue to restrict women from starting and running economic enterprises. Apart from the family and social barriers against the mobility of women, the operational barriers such as lack of access to capital, lack of training facilities for skills development, lack of business services, lack of business data, complex banking procedures and collateral requirements, etc. continue to critically limit their progress.
In recent years, the developing countries of the world including Bangladesh have been focusing attention on the most disadvantaged group in the society - the women. Realization has gradually dawned on all concerned that a society cannot afford to waste half of its human resources by discrimination on grounds of sex. This increasing awareness on the part of the government has led to the adoption of national policies to facilitate a development process involving women in all spheres particularly in economic activities focusing especially on entrepreneurship development. The overwhelming majority of women in Bangladesh are not only poor, but also caught between two vastly different worlds --- the world determined by culture and tradition that confines their activities inside family homesteads, where they are regarded more as a commodity necessary only for bearing and rearing children and the world shaped by increasing landlessness and poverty that focus them outside into various economic activities for survival. Thus the female members, constituting half the country's population, are lagging far behind their male counterparts in all spheres of life. In Bangladesh, though the majority of the working women still have not been able to impose a controlling authority in mainstream production, there has arisen a new class - the women entrepreneurs, who have accepted the challenges of life and have emerged as leaders in the socio-economic development - earning for themselves and for their families or contributing towards the socio-political upliftment of the women. Not only have their greater participation in remunerative work improved their living conditions and provided bargaining positions in the households and wider community, but they are also creating opportunities for the general womenfolk leading to their economic progress and paving the way for a dignified survival through sustainable development. Women have now become aware of their socio-economic rights and have ventured to avail the opportunities initiated for them. Rural Bangladesh is now a changed scenario for the women who have gathered courage to break barriers and enter the off-house working force as entrepreneurs and workers - a situation not accepted by the society in the past.
The urban areas have greater opportunities for business development but the areas where women lack assistance is in the access to credit, provision of skill training, and market facilities.
Entrepreneurship today has become an important profession among the women of Bangladesh at various levels of the society, both in the urban and the rural areas. The reason for the interest varies according to the different classes of the society. Where women of the poorer sections of the society, especially of the rural areas, due to poverty, have been forced into off-house income through entrepreneurship for economic solvency, the women of the middle class families, who have always lived restricted lives, have today, ventured into this profession as a challenge and an adventure into a new world of economic activity. On the other hand, many women have taken up entrepreneurship and become businesswomen not necessarily to earn and survive and raise the living standards, but to form their careers and become professionals in order to establish their rights through the development of a sector and thereby contribute towards the progress of the society and the nation.
Over the past two decades, norms segregating and protecting women have been breaking down. However, it is also apparent that female economic participation has in fact, marginalized women mainly because the activities involved in many areas does not provide women complete control over production, in land ownership or in income earned. In regular
cases, the initiatives in this regard have transferred women from the core production activities to marginal ones, such as handicraft, handloom, or home-based industries than the more sophisticated productions involving modern technology, which are usually controlled by the male entrepreneurs. Women are not being able to play a controlling role in the mainstream production where the male power has remained intact. No dent is easily created in patriarchy and the patriarchal value system of the society where women have been forced to enter and is involved marginally, being pushed increasingly into problematic situations. Their work load has increased manifold as they have to do both the domestic work and the income earning ones also. The changing role of women shows that over the last two decades, there has been a steady upward trend in the participation of women in economic activities in developing countries as Bangladesh.
Despite the problem of serious under-enumeration of women's involvement in economic activities in a sex segregated society as ours, the potential of women's economic contribution is now well recognized. Greater participation of women in remunerative work is improving their living conditions and bargaining positions in the households and wider community. It is often the case that most of women's labor in economic activities basically saves expenditure for the household, but women are not considered income earners, as the output of their labor is not always marketed by themselves.
The distinct groups of women participation in economic activities outside the homestead are:
(a)Women in rich and moderate male-he
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