Regional cooperation through business exchange and sharing of economic benefits has surged in some parts of the world, particularly in South Asia. This has deepened the spirit of cooperation and interdependence among players in filling consumer needs where supply is short from one country but substantial from a neighboring country.
Recently, a major trade fair sponsored by SAARC (South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation), an economic forum of the countries in the South Asia region, drew producers, suppliers, wholesalers and retailers and various industry leaders to a common venue for starting direct contact and negotiation with their counterparts for business relations. Women entrepreneurs from Bangladesh were among the exhibitors in the fair.
Women who belong to the WINNER-Bangladesh network took advantage of the opportunity to reinvigorate business relations with markets closer to home, even as their traditional markets overseas are shrinking due to economic troubles spawned by the global economic crisis.
The women leaders who participated in the 9th SAARC Trade Fair in Lyonpo Khandu Mangchuk, Bhutan are: Tahmina Khan, Sharmin Ahmed, Rabiya Mahfuj, Parveen Hossain, Alfroza Sultana, Barnaly Chowdhury Lopa, Sonia Hoque, Latifa Akter Lata, Mazeda Khatun and Naharih Chowdhury. These women are makers and exporters of home textiles, imitation jewelry, jute products, handicrafts and garments, among others.
WINNER-Bangladesh has been conducting various training courses for existing women’s businesses as well as women who are planning to go into business. The training curriculum covers various aspects of improving business sustainability as well as modern business practices and information and communication technology tools.
According to WINNER-Bangladesh Director Dil Alfroze, the WINNER project has provided new skills to women and strengthened their capacities to sustain their businesses.
“Our training courses for these women have prepared them to compete in the marketplace and equipped them with the tools to sustain the growth of their businesses. Many of these women have contributed to the improvement of the conditions of life, for themselves and their employees, as they have attained financial independence,” she said.
“While ever increasing numbers of women are entering the labor force, particularly in the micro and small-scale enterprises and informal sectors, women continue to face discrimination and dominate low-paying jobs. Nevetheless, women’s initiatives in the production and trade fields have been recognized as these represent a vital economic resource.”
WINNER Project was launched in Bangladesh in 2001. The training cycles included basic computer skills, Internet/e-commerce, entrepreneurial management, fair trade practices, business documentation, export procedures, among others. The women who are participating in the project have produced impressive results. Women home workers have become formal business women, obtaining trade licenses and certificates.