WOMEN in Bangladesh play significant roles not only in their families as home makers, they have been also rendering valuable services to the nation in the economic sense. One only has to look at the export-oriented garments industries of the country that earn 75 per cent of the country's foreign exchanges where illiterate and little educated female workers -- females make up some 80 per cent of the workforce of garments industries -- are contributing magnificently to that industry and the country's economy in the process. Although, there is hardly any recognition of their various works in the rural homesteads, the same are no less valuable in many respects in comparison to what men do for the agrarian or rural economy. The most promising aspect of women's participation in the economy has been in the urban areas where some of them have established businesses of a varied nature and are running them viably and efficiently. There are also some women in rural areas who have shown great promise in other entrepreneurial activities. They started small but have grown into producers of medium or even larger size enterprises in a few cases employing a large number of female workers.
All of these developments are indeed positive ones that came to mind on the occasion of the International Women's Day on Tuesday. The occasion brought into focus the attainments of women in different fields of the national life. But surely the full potentials of women in Bangladesh have not been tapped as yet. The same should be done as an imperative because females form half of the population of the country and fully harnessing their entrepreneurial or productive potentials can be of great benefit for the economy. Simply stated, more enterprising by women can boost the country's productivity or GDP to a higher level.
It must not be a point of debate whether women are to be regarded as a disadvantaged lot whose welfare or economic well-being or exploiting of their economic potentials are dependent on carefully considered and practised promotional policies. Some may contend that men and women face the common problems of lack of opportunities when it comes to getting credits, expert counseling and other facilities, so essential for successful entrepreneurship. But it is a fact that Bangladesh society in many areas is still male dominated and women should not be misunderstood for complaining that they face gender discrimination when it comes to availing of all the entrepreneurial incentives or aids which are presently available.
In that case, it is not unjustifiable that women entrepreneurship should be promoted through special policies geared to this objective. Lending organisations such as banks may consider operating branches devoted only to female customers and run them with all relevant advisory services. Only a few such exclusive services for women are there when an increase in their number is needed as women in greater number are showing a clear interest, countrywide, to engage in more enterprising activities of an economic nature. Even the establishment of lending bodies or banks only for women can be considered. Initiatives taken in this field promises to be gainful for their sponsors. There is presently a chamber of commerce representing women entrepreneurs. More such bodies need to be set up across the country not only to represent the women entrepreneurs but more significantly to identify and utilise the opportunities for greater entrepreneurship by women.