Since 2006, CIPE has supported the Bangladesh Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BWCCI), as it has grown into the leading voice of women entrepreneurs in Bangladesh. From humble beginnings in 2001, the organization now has 2,500 members across the country, served by a main office in Dhaka and several regional branch offices.
In the past, barely one percent of women entrepreneurs and small businesses and were able to get bank loans, according to BWCCI’s research. Now, after BWCCI’s extensive advocacy with the Central Bank of Bangladesh, approximately $30 million has been allocated specifically for loans to women entrepreneurs, without collateral and at low interest rates. To date, nearly $23 million has been provided to over 3,000 women entrepreneurs, helping to create around 20,000 new jobs. In addition, all banks in Bangladesh must establish dedicated desks for women entrepreneurs, and banks must make at least five percent of their SME finance loans to women, according to Central Bank instructions.
Another tool that BWCCI has used in its work with CIPE is the “national business agenda,” a process of identifying and prioritizing the concerns of entrepreneurs, and proposing concrete steps and policy solutions needed to improve the business climate. In particular, one of BWCCI’s national business agendas, in 2009, continued to focus on access to credit as a particularly acute barrier to business for women.
In the video clip that follows, Selima Ahmad, President of BWCCI, discusses these issues in more detail, and shares the stories of several of her organization’s successes – women empowering women entrepreneurs in one of the world’s poorest countries to grow their small businesses, help support their families, and create jobs for others.