Kamrun Nahar’s beginnings in the batik and screen printing business were small and showed signs of a lot of potential, but her outlet in Dhaka’s Rampura could not grow as the young entrepreneur had some training but not enough experience. money – she also did not get a loan..
Forming in the second phase of the Jatiyo Mohila Sangstha Urban Marginal Women Development Project in 2019 resulted in a small business named “Revive Fashion”, which often brought her turnover to the tune of Tk1 lakh, sometimes even more than that, in a few months.
“Financial aid or loans could definitely help my business grow,” Kamrun Nahar told The Business Standard.
She said she approached the Jatiyo Mohila Sangstha for a loan but got no response.
Many women, with the potential to become successful entrepreneurs, who have been trained in different trades under the second phase of the Urban Marginal Women’s Development Project, are not able to properly utilize their training. due to a lack of access to loan facilities, Kamrun Nahar pointed out, adding that those who have set up small businesses with their small savings or the support of their families find it difficult to stay afloat.
The people concerned said that the National Mohila Sangstha used to provide loans to trainees, but the facility is now on hold. They believe that the trained women could have become small entrepreneurs at the local level if they had received loan assistance at the end of the training.
An analysis of information on the 42,350 women, so far trained in the second phase (July 2016-June 2022) of the project, shows that a meager 3.6% of trainees could emerge as entrepreneurs. The authorities have set themselves the target of training 51,600 women in this phase.
The Mohila Sangstha also conducted a survey of 750 women entrepreneurs who were trained in the current phase of the project. Some 98% of respondents felt that there should be a loan facility at the end of the training.
In a situation where marginal women, trained under the project, are asking for loan assistance, the Mohila Sangstha has taken the initiative to train 1,87,500 women in various trades in the third phase of the project, extending from July 2022 to June 2027.
For this purpose, the cost for training purposes has been estimated at Tk 432 crore, but no allowance has been considered for loan facilities.
Sakeun Nahar Begum, executive director of Jatiyo Mohila Sangstha, told TBS that they had provided trainees with loan facilities until 2008, but the loan collection experience was not pleasant towards the end. On the other hand, contrary to the past, the possibility for women entrepreneurs to obtain loans from the banking sector has increased.
For all these reasons, loan disbursement under the Urban Marginal Women Development Project has been halted, she said.
According to official sources, the Jatiyo Mohila Sangstha started the training program for urban women in 1993. At that time, the project was called “Urban Women Development Project”. During the three phases of the project up to 2008, urban women benefited from credit facilities alongside training. Training was provided in 10 different trades.
During the first phase (1993-1996) of the project, 3,000 women were trained and two-thirds of them obtained a total of Tk 1 crore in loans. It was possible to repay the loan in 18 installments with a grace period of three months. As all borrowers did well in business, 100% of the loan was recovered.
During the second phase (1996-2003), 19,400 women were trained and 5,000 of them received Tk 3.4 crore loans. The loan recovery rate was 100%.
In the third phase, training was provided to 20,200 women while 2,072 of them received Tk 3.09 crore loans. But this time, only 70% of the loans could be recovered, prompting the authorities to cut loan facilities under the project.
Relevant officials, however, said that 100% of the loans could not be recovered due to certain weaknesses in monitoring activities at the time.
In 2008, the word “marginal” was added to the title of the project while the number of trades remained the same, without any loan being provided for trainees.
“The focus should be on creating a skilled workforce”
Ahsan H Mansur, executive director of the Policy Research Institute, said there was also an opportunity to bring these marginalized women into cooperative-based production. This can lead to the production of quality goods, he added.
He therefore insisted on the need to change the mode of financing.
The renowned economist also called for a focus on upskilling marginalized women instead of making them entrepreneurs.
“If they have skills, they will find jobs in ready-to-wear or in other sectors. Our industry lacks qualified workers. The authorities should communicate with industrial organizations and organize training programs according to their needs. This will create job opportunities.”
Average monthly income of Tk 22,885
According to a survey of entrepreneurs trained during the second phase of the Urban Marginal Women Development Project, the average monthly family income of entrepreneurs increased to Tk 22,885. According to the survey, some 40% of entrepreneurs saw their family income rise to Tk 15,001-20,000, while the increase is Tk 25,001-30,000 for 31% of the rest.
The survey also reveals that 58% of the women who became entrepreneurs after participating in the training were previously housewives, while 21.9% were unemployed.
Marketing a major challenge
Women entrepreneurs told TBS that there are several issues in marketing their products and transportation is one of them. They also face great challenges when it comes to packaging.
The entrepreneurs suggested a number of measures to solve the problems related to the marketing of their products.
Of those surveyed, 95.6% demanded that fairs be held regularly while 71% said their problems would be alleviated if they got help with packing and transport.
Inclusion of 7 new professions
In the third phase of the Urban Marginal Women Development Project, training will be provided in a total of 17 trades. Along with the existing 10 crafts including batik block and screen printing, sewing, embroidery and nakshi kantha, soap making, weaving, binding and wrapping, beading and molds, candles and show pieces, embellishment, food processing, leather goods manufacturing, poultry, catering and mobile maintenance, the training will cover seven additional trades, based on feedback trainees.
New trades include nursery, mushroom and organic farming, driving, caring, housekeeping and hotel management, and making bamboo, cane and jute products.
Relevant officials said that among the 10 existing crafts, block batik and screen printing were the most chosen subjects, followed by sewing and embroidery, soap candle and centerpiece making, nakshi kantha and cutting.
As a result, the greatest number of entrepreneurs were created in the industries of block batik and silk-screen printing, sewing and embroidery, and soap-making, candle-making, and show-pieces, respectively. .
In the meantime, despite the increase in the number of trades, training will be provided for four months on each trade as before. Trainees will also receive a stipend of Tk 150 per class.