Addressing Gender Inequalities and Leveling the Playing Field for Women Entrepreneurs in Bangladesh

Women entrepreneurs in Bangladesh face more obstacles compared to men in business. Photo credit: ADB.
Women entrepreneurs in Bangladesh face more obstacles compared to men in business. Photo credit: ADB.

With the help of a multipronged gender action plan, women who want to start small and medium-sized enterprises in Bangladesh can have a more equal playing field with men.


In Bangladesh, women-owned small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have different characteristics and specific challenges and obstacles when compared with those owned by men. The Small and Medium-Sized Enterprise Development Project supported the development and expansion of SMEs in Bangladesh from 2009 to 2013.

In specific pilot districts, the number of women-owned SMEs increased by over 10%. The training of women SME owners in business development; accounting, loan application rules and processes; and in the regulations governing businesses facilitated their improved access to institutional finance.

The formation of advocacy groups and membership in different associations enhanced the confidence of women SME owners and their ability to lobby for policy changes. Dialogue and relation building between participating financial institutions and women's SME associations helped foster mutual understanding and cooperation, leading to better outcomes for women-owned SMEs. Participating financial institution policies and products require further adaptation to meet the needs and circumstances of women-owned SMEs.

Project information

Project snapshot

  • September 2009: Loan approval / TA approval
  • September 2010: TA commencement
  • July 2013: TA end
  • July 2014: Closing date
  • $126.67 million: Overall project cost
  • Financing
  • Executing agency
    • Bangladesh Ministry of Finance
  • Implementing agency
    • Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry

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Meet the expert

  • Imrana Jalal
    Senior Social Development Specialist (Gender and Development), Sustainable Development and Climate Change Department, ADB

    A lawyer by profession, Imrana was a Commissioner with the Fiji Human Rights Commission. She is the author of the Law for Pacific Women, architect of the Family Law Act 2005, and former Chair of the UN Committee on Harmful Practices Against Women, and continues to be a member of the Fiji Women’s Rights Movement, Women Living Under Muslim Law, and the Asia-Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development. Ms. Jalal is also a Commissioner on the International Commission of Jurists, Geneva.

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   Bangladesh, Gender
   Last updated: August 2016



The views expressed in these articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Asian Development Bank, its management, its Board of Directors, or its members.

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