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Inclusive Growth Through Gender Lens Investing: Call to Support Women-led Enterprises

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Rafayet Khan
December 4, 2021
Inclusive Growth Through Gender Lens Investing: Call to Support Women-led Enterprises

As the SME sector is struggling to survive amid the Covid-19 crisis, speakers at a discussion called for supporting the enterprises, particularly women-led ones, for the national interest.

Women-led enterprises in Bangladesh have long faced policy hurdles in accessing finance from formal channels. Financial institutions are also reluctant to provide loans to women entrepreneurs, including under government announced stimulus packages, they said.

Only 5.59% of the government announced Taka 200 billion ($2.3 billion) stimulus package recipients for the small- to medium-sized enterprises (SME) sector are women, and they are mostly urban-based, they added.

Amid all the challenges faced by female entrepreneurs, the topic of gender inclusion has gained momentum among the investor circle. Apart from providing capital to women entrepreneurs, it is also essential to acknowledge that additional support to build women networks and create opportunities for women to rise to leadership positions through organizational policies is also essential tools to promote women’s economic participation.

The SME sector contributes 20% to 25% to Bangladesh’s GDP. If female entrepreneurs get necessary support, then the sector’s contribution to GDP would increase, they observed.

While addressing a virtual panel discussion titled “Gender inclusion through investing”, they insisted on improving women’s access to finance and adopting a gender-lens approach throughout the investment lifecycle, including the origination and selection process.

The virtual event was organized by Biniyog Briddhi on Thursday, 2nd of December 2021.

B-Briddhi is a multi-year partnership between the Embassy of Switzerland in Bangladesh, Roots of Impact, LightCastle Partners, and other stakeholders including investors, private sector organizations, incubators, and support organizations for impact enterprises.

The session was moderated by Maxime Cheng, Lead Market and Capacity Building Program at Roots of Impact.

A panel of investors, entrepreneurs, lawyers and intermediaries joined the discussion to share their unique experiences and perspectives for the audiences to better understand how impact can be amplified to improve gender inclusion through investments.

Sylvana Q. Sinha, Founder, Chair, & CEO at Praava Health; Anita Ghazi Rahman, Founder and Managing Partner at The Legal Circle; and Bijon Islam, Co-Founder and CEO at LightCastle Partners; discussed about the potential of gender inclusion through impact investing in Bangladesh.

Sylvana Q. Sinha shared her challenges as a founder of a healthcare startup and the role her gender has played in the business. She said, “It is challenging to raise investments as a female founder. We are raising the topic to create a community where women can find more support. Our advice to women: Find allies, not only with other women but also with men who understand the challenges that you are going through.”

Anita Ghazi Rahman, who is also an angel investor and lawyer, shared the lessons taken from her investments and how others can make a more impact-driven investment regarding gender inclusion.

Bijon Islam focused on the Gender Lens Investing in the context of Bangladesh and said, “Gender inclusion is supporting and rewarding the diversity in culture and professional structures. Gender lens investing supports both men and women who are in the decision-making roles of a company, based on our research data. Most importantly, gender lens investing is not just about focusing on women but also about reaching the vulnerable groups who do not have access to modern instruments.”

Nirjhor Rahman, CEO of Bangladesh Angels, shared the latest update from the Bangladesh Women Angels Network chapter, which is going to be launched soon.


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WRITTEN BY: Rafayet Khan

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