Ensuring a Gender-Inclusive Action Plan for Strengthening Small and Medium-sized Enterprises in Bangladesh

LightCastle Analytics Wing
March 31, 2021
Ensuring a Gender-Inclusive Action Plan for Strengthening Small and Medium-sized Enterprises in Bangladesh

The Opportunity

Bangladesh has numerous people working in the informal sector, primarily due to their lack of skills to do high-value tasks. This sector suffers from a lack of knowledge of regulatory frameworks and unsafe work practices, for which the workers face exploitation and often work on-premises with less-than-ideal work conditions. To address this issue, SwissContact introduced Building Skills for Unemployed and Underemployed Labour (B-SkillFUL) program, which aims to improve the well-being of workers by increasing their income and access to the labor market. Phase I of this program, which was completed in 2020, facilitated training and raised awareness of enterprise owners regarding the benefits of a decent work environment.

SwissContact recently started implementing Phase II of the B-SkillFUL program in Bangladesh, funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). The program is focused on strengthening Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) by improving their productivity and competitiveness. Furthermore, it will work towards skills building to create jobs in 3 sectors – Light Engineering, Furniture, and Leather. The program contributes to the 2030 Agenda of the United Nations for inclusive and sustainable growth, along with the aim of economic recovery from Covid-19.

Preliminary sector analysis in this program has shown male dominance in all 3 sectors, for which B-SkillFUL assigned LightCastle to devise a gender strategy and action plan under the guidance of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) Gender Policy Maker to improve the gender balance. By conducting this study, the LightCastle team provided support to the international and national consultants, to conduct a holistic analysis of both men’s and women’s perspectives in terms of decision-making, ownership, opportunities, and access to services along with their broader roles in their socio-economic lives.


In order to analyze the data required for the overall gender analysis and aid in the development of gender strategy and action plan, LightCastle utilized a 5-step process that helped conduct the qualitative study, consisting of Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) and Key Informant Interviews (KIIs), among target audiences and clusters across Bangladesh.

Fig: 5 Step Process

The first step involved conducting secondary research to understand the SDC and B-SkillFUL guidelines in formulating the gender strategy and mapping the current situation. Based on this desk research, along with extensive interaction with SDC and BSkillFUL, the LightCastle team designed the data collection instruments and finalized the sampling plan along with the list of respondents.

A pilot test was then carried out, before utilizing the finalized instruments to collect data via trained enumerators across identified clusters of light engineering, furniture making, and leather goods manufacturing. In total, 24 FGDs and 54 KIIs were conducted across Bogra, Dhaka, Rangpur, and Kishoreganj encompassing SMEs and employers, business associations, and men and women workers in different occupations at different levels.

The data collected was then cleaned and analyzed to conceptualize a deeper understanding of gender dynamics and opportunities for program engagement in a report which, as part of the final step of the process, was refined by feedback from the B-SkillFUL team and SDC representatives.


The findings of this study will be utilized to devise the action plan and strategy for the Phase II of the B-SkillFUL program, to recognize the challenges and needs linked to employment options for women. Furthermore, it helped in assessing inequalities, obstacles, opportunities, and gender relations in the targeted 3 sectors. The study hopes to bring about better gender balance, and ensure the consideration of gender aspects in the management cycle of the B-SkillFUL program in all stages.

WRITTEN BY: LightCastle Analytics Wing

At LightCastle, we take a systemic and data-driven approach to create opportunities for growth and impact. We are an international management consulting firm which creates systemic and data-driven opportunities for growth and impact in emerging markets. By collaborating with development partners and leveraging the power of the private sector, we strive to boost economies, inspire businesses, and change lives at scale.

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