Speakers at a webinar on Thursday called for focusing support to SMEs, particularly women entrepreneurs, as they are struggling to survive.
Women-led enterprises in Bangladesh have long faced policy hurdles in accessing finance from formal channels. Financial institutions are also reluctant to provide loans to women entrepreneurs, including under government announced stimulus packages, they said.
Just 5.6 percent of recipients of the government- announced Tk 200 billion stimulus package for the small- to medium-sized enterprises (SME) are women, and they are mostly urban-based, they added.
Amid all the challenges faced by female entrepreneurs, the topic of gender inclusion has gained momentum among the investor circle.
Apart from providing capital to women entrepreneurs, it is also essential to acknowledge that additional support to build women networks and create opportunities for women to rise to leadership positions through organizational policies are also essential tools to promote women’s economic participation.
The SME sector contributes 20-25 percent to Bangladesh’s GDP. If female entrepreneurs get necessary support, then the sector’s contribution to GDP would increase, they observed.
Addressing in the webinar titled ‘Gender inclusion through investing’, they insisted on improving women’s access to finance and to adopt a gender-lens approach throughout the investment lifecycle, including the origination and selection process.
A panel of investors, entrepreneurs, lawyers and intermediaries joined the discussion to share their unique experiences and perspectives for the audiences to better understand how impact can be amplified to improve gender inclusion through investments.
Sylvana Q. Sinha, Founder, Chair, & CEO at Praava Health; Anita Ghazi Rahman, Founder and Managing Partner at The Legal Circle; and Bijon Islam, Co-Founder and CEO at LightCastle Partners; discussed about the potential of gender inclusion through impact investing in Bangladesh. Nirjhor Rahman, CEO of Bangladesh Angels, shared the latest update from the Bangladesh Women Angels Network chapter, which is going to be launched soon.
The session was moderated by Maxime Cheng, Lead Market and Capacity Building Program at Roots of Impact.
B-Briddhi is a multi-year partnership between the Embassy of Switzerland in Bangladesh, Roots of Impact, LightCastle Partners, and other stakeholders including investors, private sector organisations, incubators, and support organisations for impact enterprises.