The reluctance of banks and financial institutions to provide women with easy loans is one of the major barriers to the growth of women-led small and medium enterprises, analysts said yesterday.
Banks now offer up to Tk 10 lakh as collateral-free loans only for three years to such SMEs, but they need long-term loans to keep the amount of repayment instalments low, they said.
They spoke at a seminar titled “Women entrepreneurs breaking the barriers” at Lakeshore Hotel in the capital.
A dearth of capital and lack of knowledge about the refinancing schemes also hamper growth of the women-led enterprises, said Nazneen Ahmed, senior research fellow of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies.
Banks should simplify the credit system to ensure easy loans for women entrepreneurs, she suggested.
Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC), Women Entrepreneur Association of Bangladesh (WEAB), The Asia Foundation-Bangladesh, and European Union funded PRISM Programme-Technical Assistance to BSCIC jointly organised the seminar.
Industries Minister Amir Hossain Amu attended the seminar as the chief guest.
The government has taken various measures to increase the financial access of women entrepreneurs but still lack of financing remains the major barrier for them, the minister said.
The policymakers will have to change their mindset to create a level playing field for women entrepreneurs, he said.
Women will have to raise their voice to overcome the barriers, said Mustak Hassan Md Iftekhar, chairman of BSCIC.
Women should highlight the loopholes, if there is any, in the loan disbursement procedure to the authorities concerned to break the barriers, he said.
The services women entrepreneurs get in government organisations are not good at all, Iftekhar said. The state-owned service providers should be more ethical, he said.
The WEAB aims to bring all women entrepreneurs under a platform, help them identify their challenges and solve their problems, said Nasreen Fatema Awal, president of the association.