Women in Bangladesh face systemic constraints in access to and control over resources such as land, credit and productivity-enhancing technologies, skills, inputs and services. Labour wages for women are 50% less than for men and only 2% of local entrepreneurs in Bangladesh are women (Asian Foundation ’10). Under the Blue Gold Program’s (BGP) Innovation Fund, United Purpose is establishing 4 Women’s Business Centres in the Blue Gold working area of Botiaghata in Khulna, Southwest Bangladesh. The Centres are designed to improve rural women’s access to services, income, and their position in agricultural value chains in rural Bangladesh.
Drawing on the experience of United Purpose elsewhere in Bangladesh, each Centre is established and managed by five female entrepreneurs, most of who will be BGP resource farmers, and will provide services to approximately 1,000 female producers. Entrepreneurs are selected by the target communities and trained by the project to become community agriculture and business advisors who charge appropriate fees for their services. Water Management Groups (WMGs), Farmer Field School, and Market Field School resource farmers will be part of producer groups supported by the centres.
Description of the Innovation
Services offered by the Centres include:
- IT & communication services, such as mobile banking, access to internet;
- Agriculture and cottage industries support, such as training, input supply and marketing;
- Preventive healthcare & nutrition, including first aid & counseling for women and children.
The project will directly benefit 20 female entrepreneurs and 4,000 female producers. This will indirectly benefit 18,400 family members of the female producers through:
- Increased household income
- Strengthened women’s position in agricultural value chains
- Increased access to affordable and quality services for women producer
United Purpose has designed the project based on the lessons learnt from an in-depth feasibility study, which included value chain assessments and consultation with a range of local stakeholders including government, private sector and WMGs.
Gender is a key cross cutting objective in this project. All staff have received gender training and have developed gender action plans to ensure that the differing needs of men and women are being addressed and analysed effectively. The project will sensitise staff of the Department of Agriculture Extension on gender and promote the engagement of women in diverse agriculture value chain training. The project will promote the inclusion and engagement of women in committees and key positions of the WMGs. The project also aims to work with mixed as well as female only producer groups to increase the recognition of women by men in agriculture.
Sustainability/Future Business Model
Women entrepreneurs have proven to be effective change agents to empower other rural women in their community. Entrepreneurs are self-employed and generate an income from the Centres, they are linked to government extension agencies, private sector companies and business platforms and networks for sustainability. Through the women entrepreneurs, community members are able to receive services efficiently and independently long after the project funding has ended.
United Purpose’s experience has shown that WBCs are sustainable and scalable beyond initial support, capacity building and partial investment. Female entrepreneurs have been able to establish their own centres after observing the model in their locality. The project will work with the wider WMGs to promote the upscaling of the model by others.
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Download a PDF version: United Purpose – Women Business Centres v2