Nearly 60% of businesswomen reported no knowledge of the govt’s Covid-19 stimulus
Bank officials have reportedly discouraged women entrepreneurs from taking loans under the stimulus package announced for women-run cottage, micro, small, and medium enterprises (CMSMEs), according to a study by the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD).
Many banks were also unwilling to provide the amount of money which the entrepreneurs needed, while certain bank officials said there were no orders from the authorities to give loans to women.
In addition, bank officials created extra hassle which discouraged women to apply for the loans, found the study, which aimed to understand whether the government support measures during the Covid-19 pandemic had been gender-sensitive.
This led to only 7% female entrepreneurs in the country applied for loans under the stimulus package announced for women-run CMSMEs, the CPD study found.
The findings of the study were presented on Thursday at a virtual dialogue on “Socio-Economic Recovery Measures of the Government: How Much Women Have Benefitted.”
Some women entrepreneurs think that they did not get loans since they were single women, while others had no information regarding where to go, who to ask, what to do, and how to apply for it.
And as most of their incomes had fallen, they worried about monthly repayment of the loans.
Of the 70 female entrepreneurs surveyed from 34 districts across the country, 58.6% reported no knowledge of the stimulus package announced by the government.
Among the participants, 41.4% had to shut down their businesses, while 7.1% had to downsize. Some 44.4% failed to pay rent and 50% said they could not manage to pay government taxes and utility bills.
Distinguished Fellow of CPD Professor Rounaq Jahan chaired the session, while CPD Executive Director Dr Fahmida Khatun made the keynote presentation.
Fahmida pointed out that child marriage, burden of unpaid care and domestic work, and violence against women have also surged amid the pandemic.
The government’s Covid-19 liquidity support and fiscal stimulus packages were not designed with women in mind, she further said.
Rounaq Jahan opined that though Covid-19 added disadvantages for women, a plan of action for specific groups to support in specific areas for women entrepreneurs need to be prepared.
A task force might be formed to monitor the progress of this work, she suggested.
Commenting on the promotion of the incentive package as the chief guest, Planning Minister MA Mannan said that all should work together to bring this information to the right people.
He mentioned that the government recognizes the challenges of women during the pandemic and is working towards improving the situation.
Shoko Ishikawa, country representative of UN Women, joined the dialogue as a special guest.
She mentioned that globally, 47 million women and girls have been forced into poverty because of Covid-19.
She also added that all stimulus packages need to ensure adequate and transparent delivery for women.
Dr Lila Rashid, former executive director of the Bangladesh Bank, said CMSMEs are in the informal financial system and their issues cannot be resolved unless they are taken to the formal banking channel.
CPD recommended massive public awareness regarding financial support, child marriage, female empowerment, and the use of technology while demanding transparency and accountability in terms of Covid-19 support disbursement.
Due to the economic downturn and the uncertainty regarding the future, women need cash handouts more than loans and so fiscal measures would be more effective in easing the burden of the pandemic on women than monetary measures, the think tank further said.
Selim RF Hussain, managing director and CEO of Brac Bank, stated that banks should also focus on investing in non-financial advisory services for women entrepreneurs.
Among others, Shaheen Anam, executive director of Manusher Jonno Foundation; Kaniz Almas, CEO and managing director of Persona; Dr Fauzia Moslem, president of Bangladesh Mahila Parishad; and Vidiya Amrit Khan, director of Desh Group of Companies also joined the virtual dialogue.