Policy Dialogue on #SheMeansBusiness by Meta

LightCastle Analytics Wing
May 17, 2022
Policy Dialogue on #SheMeansBusiness by Meta

Meta, in partnership with Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce (BWCCI) and Aspire to Innovate (a2i), the ICT Division of Bangladesh hosted a policy dialogue to officially launch Meta’s #SheMeansBusiness program in Bangladesh on 29 March 2022. The policy dialogue was hosted virtually and the discussion was focused on the theme “The importance of incorporating digital tools for SMBs’ business growth and sustainability at par with the 21st-century global digital economy, especially for women entrepreneurs.” 

A prestigious panel of guest speakers attended the discussion:

  1. Hafizur Rahman, Director General (Additional Secretary), Ministry of Commerce 
  2. Dr. Dewan Muhammad Humayun Kabir, Project Director (Joint Secretary), a2i 
  3. Ridma Khan, Director, BWCCI
  4. Sabhanaz Rashid Diya, Head of Public Policy, Bangladesh, Meta

Ivdad Ahmed Khan Mojlish, Managing Director of LightCastle Partners moderated the discussion. In this program, he raised critical questions about the disproportionate challenges the women entrepreneurs face in the current times and how the Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of ICT division, BWCCI, and Meta’s #SheMeansBusiness program are going to jointly work to help mitigate those challenges by equipping women entrepreneurs of Bangladesh with digital literacy. 

“More than 70% of female-led businesses in Bangladesh were set up on Facebook and with an increase of more than 65% in Instagram businesses owned by women.”

– Md. Shahriar Hasan Jisun, National Consultant at a2i, ICT Division

The session started with opening remarks from Md. Shahriar Hasan Jisun, National Consultant, a2i, ICT Division followed by Rezwanul Haque Jami, Head of eCommerce, a2i ICT Division where he pointed out the fact that we are on the brink of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR). In such circumstances, we cannot thrive as a nation if we do not include 50% of the population which is women, under digital platforms. Later the discussion was joined by Beth Ann Lim, Director of Policy Programs and Government Outreach-Asia Pacific and Global Head of #SheMeansBusiness at Meta. She reflected on the #SheMeansBusiness program’s mission to unlock the entrepreneurial potential of women to create a more resilient, inclusive, and equal society. The opening remarks were followed by Selima Ahmad MP, President, Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry who shed light on the fact that there have been a lot of developments in the male-dominated environment in the last few years and the result has been tremendous. 

“We have seen during the pandemic period, almost half of the micro and small cottage entrepreneurs in Bangladesh resorted to online means, and a big part of that online drive to bring their business online was through social media, specifically tools like Facebook and WhatsApp.”

Rezwanul Haque Jami, Head of eCommerce at a2i, ICT Division 

“The existing e-commerce ecosystem does not fully facilitate women’s participation. Access to digital devices, reliable internet infrastructure, payment, and logistics services are critical but remain under-supported and underdeveloped for many communities, especially in rural areas.”

– Selima Ahmad MP, President, Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry

“One of the greatest honors that I have about being able to work with this program is that I have learned an important part about #SheMeansBusiness when female entrepreneurs start a business, they also hire more women.”

–  Beth Ann Lim, Director of Policy Programs and Government Outreach-Asia Pacific and Global Head of #SheMeansBusiness at Meta

The policy dialogue then proceeded towards more focused discussions regarding educating women about digital tools. The discussion was started by Ivdad Ahmed Khan Mojlish about where Bangladesh stands within the global economy, particularly focusing on the MSME landscape to set the context and points of discussion. 

“According to the world bank, MSMEs contribute 90% of business and more than half of employment globally. In Bangladesh, its contribution to GDP is 25%, which has created employment for 7.8 million people directly, and it keeps on providing a livelihood for 31.2 million. The numbers are staggering.”

–  Ivdad Ahmed Khan Mojlish, Managing Director at LightCastle Partners

Contribution of women entrepreneurs in the MSME landscape of Bangladesh

  1. Stating World Bank’s findings which present that MSMEs constitute 90% of businesses and more than half of employment globally, he indicated the importance of digital inclusion for these SMEs. 
  2. Besides, MSMEs contribute 25% of the GDP of Bangladesh and generate employment for 7.8 million people directly. 

“When we take any projects, we have the policy that women’s participation within these projects or initiatives should be remarkable. We target at least 30% of the participants should be women.”

Hafizur Rahman, Director General (Additional Secretary), Ministry of Commerce

How can the Ministry of Commerce support MSMEs, in particular, women-led MSMEs to help them overcome challenges in the post-pandemic era?

In response to the question this question Hafizur Rahman, Director General (Additional Secretary), Ministry of Commerce pointed out the following: 

  1. The Digital Bangladesh vision of the Government of Bangladesh facilitated the training of  5000 entrepreneurs across the nation, half of which were women. 
  1. The Ministry of Commerce has worked on multiple projects that are focused on the inclusion of women entrepreneurs in digital commerce. These initiatives played an instrumental role in increasing women’s participation in digital commerce. 

Contribution of the Ministry of ICT to increasing women’s participation in e-Commerce

The next part of the discussion was led by Dr. Dewan Muhammad Humayun Kabir, Project Director (Joint Secretary), a2i where he highlighted the contributions of the Ministry of ICT.

  1. The ministry has executed various projects to ensure the digitalization of the whole nation on a broad level in addition to gender inclusivity and sensitivity. 
  1. The ICT Division of Bangladesh has worked on building 8000 digital centers all over the country and 50% of the participants were women. 

” A2i was the key role player while developing e-commerce and e-services. We have started our journey by creating digital centers. Currently, we have more than 8000 digital centers, 50% of them are training women.”

– Dr. Dewan Muhammad Humayun Kabir, Project Director (Joint Secretary), a2i

BWCCI working to mitigate the digital divide between male and female entrepreneurs

Ridma Khan, Director, BWCCI discussed how their organization is working towards mitigating the digital divide between men and women entrepreneurs. BWCCI has taken up a two-prong approach to deal with this issue. 

  1. BWCCI is supporting women entrepreneurs with capacity development through training which comprises training in 64 districts with more than 55000 women. 
  1. Advocacy has paved the way for many policies that ensure women’s economic empowerment which include collateral-free loans for women entrepreneurs, separate allocation of BDT 100 crores in the budget for women’s development, and capacity building. 
  1. BWCCI has been working on eradicating the digital divide relentlessly even before the Covid-19 pandemic hit the nation. To assess the intensity of the situation, BWCCI started with research focusing on women entrepreneurs to understand the challenges women entrepreneurs face in digitizing their businesses. The research got momentum in light of the pandemic. After 7 FGDs, in 7 divisions, the BWCCI came up with a list of recommendations, most of which were implemented by the ICT division.

“When a woman’s business closes, they have much more challenges to reopen it than their male counterparts. Also, in relation to getting access to finance, traditionally women have more difficulty than males.”

– Ridma Khan, Director at BWCCI

The impact generated by Meta to give women equal access to digital commerce

Lastly, Sabhanaz Rashid Diya, Head of Public Policy, Bangladesh, Meta highlighted the impact Meta has generated through their work in light of ensuring women get equal access to digital commerce and are well equipped to reap the benefits of it as well. She mentioned that the women in Bangladesh are some of the most resilient ones who have survived very hard challenges. Now they are paving the way for cross-border business as well utilizing Meta’s platforms. That’s where Meta sees itself adding more value to the Bangladeshi economy by creating these systems that can help the ecosystems grow by creating more jobs locally and most importantly help women get online and do these businesses. 

  1. The barrier to entry is more for women than men. However, Meta has been able to lower the barrier by making its digital platforms readily available to everyone. 
  1. Meta has facilitated the initiation of 70% of women-led businesses in the pandemic through Facebook and Meta’s family of apps such as Messenger, Whatsapp, and Instagram. 
  1. Meta’s platform has opened new doors of opportunity for the MSME ecosystem to grow by connecting small businesses with relevant stakeholders all over the world. 

“We feel that the women of Bangladesh, particularly women entrepreneurs of Bangladesh, are extremely resilient. They have seen some of the most egregious challenges and yet they have survived.”

– Sabhanaz Rashid Diya, Head of Public Policy, Bangladesh, Meta

Way forward

Meta has been working as a digital storefront for these businesses where they get to display their products and increase their visibility. Ridma Khan added with Diya that due to Meta’s platform, women got the opportunity to work from home which eased the challenges that come with running a business tremendously. They believe there are still talented women across the nation who are not able to display them due to a lack of digital knowledge. This is where Meta’s #SheMeansBusiness steps in to help women get access to greater opportunities. 

The panel discussion ended with the key takeaways that came up from the discussion of the panelists and hopes of establishing #SheMeansBusiness on a larger scale in Bangladesh. This will ensure a more robust economic growth of the country and the global economy at large by increasing women’s economic empowerment through digital literacy. 

WRITTEN BY: LightCastle Analytics Wing

LightCastle Analytics Wing is the research division of LightCastle Partners. It is tasked with producing periodic reports on the different sectors of the economy, analyzing trends in markets and making methodical, thorough and intelligent analysis to improve strategy and drive business growth.

For further clarifications, contact here: [email protected]

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