Empowering Women through Entrepreneurship in Bangladesh

Empowering women through entrepreneurship is a crucial aspect of promoting gender equality and economic development in Bangladesh. The government and various organizations have implemented initiatives to support and encourage female entrepreneurs, providing them with opportunities and creating an enabling environment for their success.

Government Initiatives

The government of Bangladesh has taken dedicated steps to empower women entrepreneurs and create a supportive atmosphere for their businesses. Policies and programs such as the National Women Development Policy (NWDP) and the National Women Entrepreneurs Development Policy (NWEDP) have been implemented to benefit women-led enterprises [1].

Access to Finance

Access to finance remains a significant challenge for women entrepreneurs in Bangladesh. Despite women making up half of the labor force aged 15-49, they represent only 17 percent of those employed by cottage, micro, and small and medium enterprises (CMSMEs) [2]. To address this issue, the Bangladesh Bank (BB) has introduced policy initiatives to ease access to finance for female entrepreneurs. The BB has 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 have been instructed to provide credit to new women entrepreneurs in the CMSME sectors. Additionally, 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 [2].

Impact of Financing Women-Owned Enterprises

The financing of women-owned enterprises has had a positive impact on the lives of female entrepreneurs and their families. It has also led to the establishment of a CMSME-friendly environment in the country’s banking sector. The amount of financing for women entrepreneurs and the number of borrowers have significantly increased over the years. In 2010, banks and financial institutions in Bangladesh financed USD 231 million for 13,233 women-led MSMEs. By 2016, the amount had risen to USD 543 million, and the number of women-led CMSMEs had reached 32,842 [2].

Role of Business Associations

Business associations and chambers of commerce play a crucial role in nurturing businesses and advocating for a conducive policy environment. In Bangladesh, the barriers for women entrepreneurs extended to the system of chambers and associations. However, the establishment of the Bangladesh Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BWCCI) has brought about significant changes. BWCCI, founded by Selima Ahmad, has provided a platform for women entrepreneurs to support each other and address their unique needs [3].

Building an Organization for Business Women

BWCCI started as a training organization, focusing on building business skills and enabling women to compete on an equal footing. With support from the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), BWCCI has grown its membership and developed leading organizational practices related to governance, management, and services. It now offers business development, administrative support, and trade promotion services to its members. BWCCI has also engaged in policy advocacy to lower regulatory barriers and expand opportunities for women entrepreneurs [3].

Advocacy for Women Entrepreneurs

BWCCI has played a crucial role in advocating for women entrepreneurs in Bangladesh. It developed the Women’s National Business Agenda (WNBA), which included policy recommendations to address social barriers, capacity building and training needs, and financial barriers. The WNBA received endorsements from over 180 organizations and led to reforms such as increased lending to women-owned businesses by commercial banks. BWCCI also worked to close the implementation gap by conducting advocacy meetings and legal literacy sessions [3].


Empowering women through entrepreneurship in Bangladesh is essential for promoting gender equality and economic development. The government’s initiatives, along with the efforts of organizations like BWCCI, have created a supportive environment for women entrepreneurs. Access to finance and policy advocacy have played a significant role in empowering women and enabling them to contribute to the country’s socioeconomic landscape.

Learn more:

  1. Women in business: A shifting narrative – Dhaka Tribune
  2. Empowering women entrepreneurs in Bangladesh – Alliance for Financial Inclusion
  3. Empowering Women Entrepreneurs in Bangladesh – Center for International Private Enterprise

Leave a Comment