Hardly staying afloat: COVID-19 and women entrepreneurs in Bangladesh

Image: Collected
In the beginning of 2020, a female named Sabina Akhter took a stage towards her imagine owning a small clothing boutique in the bustling city of Khulna in Bangladesh. At 28, like many youthful entrepreneurs in Bangladesh, Sabina hoped to turn her passion right into a lucrative organization, and she required out a loan to get started on her boutique. Months soon after, as the COVID-19 pandemic gripped Bangladesh and the united states gone into lockdown, Sabina was pressured to close her fledgling business.

Like Sabina, 47-year-old Jahanara Begum, a recognised entrepreneur, was also forced to close her organization in 2020, leaving her with few options to support her children and extended family group.

The stories of Sabina and Jahanara are emblematic of the numerous setbacks that girls entrepreneurs have observed - in Bangladesh and beyond - during COVID-19.

In the last decade, females have built tremendous strides in Bangladesh, stepping out of your home to take part in the economy. In the tiny and medium business (SME) sector, which makes up about an estimated 25 percent of Bangladesh’s GDP, females have made significant contributions. SMEs create occupation for around 7.8 million persons directly and offer livelihoods for 31.2 million people. Females entrepreneurs face formidable obstacles, however, such as a lack of usage of loans and start-up capital, difficulties in accessing formal support, and restrictions on their mobility and capability to network and develop their businesses. Prevailing public norms and procedures within the house and society as well continue steadily to erect barriers with their socio-economic empowerment.

The pandemic has exacerbated these challenges and revealed precisely how few fallback options women entrepreneurs have in times of crisis. In September 2020, The Asia Foundation commissioned a report to examine the realities confronting females entrepreneurs in South Asia. The analysis shows that a higher percentage of women SME owners have observed falling sales, comprehensive employee layoffs, and main obstacles to working their businesses due to insufficient cashflow and government restrictions. A lot more than 75 percent of respondents cited a lack of funding as a challenge to adapting their businesses to COVID-19 restrictions.

Beyond the economic result, women’s personal and family group lives also have felt the influence of the pandemic. The Asia Base is working on a qualitative analysis of the economic and public impacts of COVID-19 in seven cities in South and Southeast Asia [forthcoming]. In Bangladesh, the research focused on the social and economic impacts of COVID-19 on women-led SMEs in metropolis of Khulna, where I spoke to several women employed in the clothing sector. Their stories revealed if you ask me the countless difficulties they confronted both professionally and personally.

Women spoke about the business enterprise effect of the lockdown and early containment measures, which caused them significant financial losses. The suspension of important social and religious occasions during the lockdown tripped a ripple aftereffect of negative implications. Orders were cancelled and stock piled-up. Supply chains had been disrupted, and a shortage of recycleables in the neighborhood market following the lockdown forced many to travel to different cities for items. Travel costs such as food and accommodations brought on business bills to grow. The necessity for inexpensive accommodations of these trips raised worries about personal safety.

My interviewees spoke of earning difficult decisions like laying off skilled personnel. They spoke of the years it requires to build abilities and trusted relationships with their workers and the emotional strain this caused, even more reducing productivity. Each one of these factors got their toll, even though some women remain fighting to hold their businesses alive, others have already been forced to close.

In April 2020, the federal government of Bangladesh introduced a stimulus offer equal to roughly A$3.1 million to boost the SME and cottage-industry sector, but the scheme has attracted few takers. The women we spoke to had been hesitant about the repayment terms and the countless documents required. Tailored, much longer repayment terms are needed. Many women could also reap the benefits of training in business management, digital literacy, and other new skills to help them rebuild their businesses as the pandemic subsides.

Women also have faced personal challenges during this time. In the absence of domestic help, girls have shouldered additional family group and household tasks, taking time from their businesses. With schools closed and children in the home, various reported spending a lot more period on childcare, forcing them to job late at night on the businesses after finishing family members chores. To deal, some women have transferred their businesses into their homes, and other, typically younger entrepreneurs happen to be shifting to digital platforms. Both are desperately seeking for new methods to stay engaged throughout the market.

All these factors possess increased women’s stress and anxiety. As well, the loss of public connections has still left them with fewer coping mechanisms. Many would reap the benefits of psychosocial support to greatly help them keep going after their dreams.

Despite these various hurdles, women entrepreneurs want to claim an area for themselves within the business enterprise sector and more broadly as contributors to Bangladesh’s market. But that space is still woefully tiny. According to a 2016 study by the International Finance Corporation, women-owned businesses constitute just 7.2 percent of the eight million businesses in Bangladesh.

To improve this figure and permit more girls to pursue successful organization activities, policies and programs must address the barriers keeping females like Sabina and Jahanara from construction their enterprises, barriers that have grown extra daunting during COVID-19.

Tags :