Grant unsecured loans to women entrepreneurs

Analysts urge banks at EBL roundtable

As women are one of the main drivers of the country’s impressive economic growth, banks should take initiatives to ensure that women entrepreneurs get loans without hassle, experts say. Photo: Palash Khan

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As women are one of the main drivers of the country’s impressive economic growth, banks should take initiatives to ensure that women entrepreneurs get loans without hassle, experts say. Photo: Palash Khan

Banks should take steps to provide collateral-free loans to women entrepreneurs by simplifying the loan application process, analysts said yesterday.

They made the recommendations during a panel discussion on “Financial Inclusion for Women’s Economic Empowerment”, organized by Eastern Bank Ltd (EBL) to celebrate International Women’s Day.

Rokeya Kabir, secretary member of Bangladesh Nari Progati Sangstha, said money is being looted from banks in Bangladesh and bad debts are increasing.

She wondered why women entrepreneurs had to meet strict requirements to get loans of only Tk 10-15 lakh.

“Women are one of the main drivers of the ongoing development of the country, therefore banks should take the initiative to disburse loans without any hassle to female entrepreneurs,” Kabir added.

Sadiq Ahmed, vice president of the Bangladesh Policy Research Institute, said a gender gap is prevalent in many countries, but is surprisingly high in Bangladesh.

According to the World Bank’s 2017 Findex, Jordan had the highest gender gap among the 140 countries studied at 30%, while Bangladesh and Turkey followed closely at 29%.

However, the spread of the ICT revolution is expected to help bridge the gender gap in access to finance through the falling cost of mobile financial services, Ahmed added.

Ali Reza Iftekhar, managing director of EBL, said there were nearly eight million businesses in Bangladesh.

Among the many barriers to female entrepreneurship in Bangladesh, perhaps the biggest stumbling block is the glaring gender gap in financial inclusion due to socio-cultural constraints, lack of control over decision-making and low mastery of digital technologies.

Nuzhat Anwar, acting country manager for Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal at the IFC, said the country’s banks’ highly complex loan application process discourages women entrepreneurs from availing the loans.

International Monetary Fund country representative Jayendu De said Bangladesh should also learn from global experiences to address the issue of women entrepreneurs.

Nazneen Ahmed, country economist for the United Nations Development Program in Bangladesh, said the central bank and commercial banks should take the lead in conducting financial education programs for women entrepreneurs.

At the event, EBL also launched a banking product called “EBL Mastercard Aqua Women Prepaid Card”. This is the first product of its kind exclusively for Bangladeshi women aged 18 and above.

As such, this financial solution can be used by women entrepreneurs, students, service providers, and women from all walks of life.

Among others, Md Habibur Rahman, Chief Economist of Bangladesh Bank, Md Abul Bashar, Executive Director, Rupali Chowdhury, Managing Director of Berger Paints Bangladesh, Nihad Kabir, Director of the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Ziaul Karim, Senior Executive of EBL, addressed the event.