Over 1,100 Bangladeshi women entrepreneurs make their mark in UAE

Abida Hossain, President of Bangladesh Consulate Ladies Group and Secretary General of Women’s Diplomatic Group. Image Courtesy: Bangladesh Consulate Ladies Group
Abida Hossain, President of Bangladesh Consulate Ladies Group and Secretary General of Women’s Diplomatic Group. Image Courtesy: Bangladesh Consulate Ladies Group
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More than 100 self-made Bangladeshi women entrepreneurs and 1,000 women professionals are currently contributing to the UAE economy, according to a senior official. They are active in real estate, restaurant, garments, trading, jewelry, grocery, typing services etc.

Non-Resident Bangladeshis (NRBs) own and manage more than 100,000 of the 750,000 active businesses in the UAE, according to sources. Although the number of Bangladeshi women entrepreneurs are quite small compared to the total number of businesses owned by the NRB entrepreneurs, their numbers are growing as more and more women are establishing their businesses in the UAE.

Many Bangladeshi home-makers are also pursuing business using online platforms on Facebook and Instagram business channels and their numbers are growing fast, exceeding around a million, around 30 percent of them being women.

Their rapid progress in the UAE mirrors the success of women empowerment in Bangladesh. Women in Bangladesh play a significant role in the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) sector. According to a report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), women are involved in over 40 percent of SMEs in Bangladesh. This represents a significant contribution to the country’s economy, as SMEs make up a large portion of the country’s GDP.

In Bangladesh, women’s labour force participation had increased significantly from 15.8 percent in 1995-96 to 35.6 percent in 2016. Only around 12 percent of them had become entrepreneurs. Additionally, more than 90 percent of the 5 million professionals working in the US$40 billion export-earning ready-made garments industry are women.

Data from the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) shows the number of female-owned SMEs in Bangladesh was 2.8 million, which is around 24.6 percent of the total number of SMEs in the country. Additionally, a study by the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) found that women-led SMEs employ around 8.4 million people, which is around 10 percent of the total workforce in Bangladesh. Women in Bangladesh are involved in a wide range of SME activities, including manufacturing, trading, and services.

“Women’s empowerment has advanced significantly in Bangladesh over the past few years, resulting in notable changes in many facets of society. Women in Bangladesh have become a key factor in the nation’s development, improving access to healthcare, education, and the workforce as well as increasing economic participation,” Abida Hossain, Chairperson of Bangladesh Consulate Ladies Group (BCLG) and General Secretary of the Women’s Diplomatic Group of Dubai, says.

“Bangladesh has made outstanding strides in advancing girls’ education. The World Bank reports that the gender parity index in primary and secondary education has almost reached parity. In order to empower women, it is essential to increase their economic participation and financial security. Bangladesh has seen a rise in women’s entrepreneurship as a result of the government supporting numerous initiatives, such as microfinance programmes and skill development training.”

Her organisation a panel-discussion to observe the International Women’s Day on March 08, 2024.

Women make up approximately 49.42 percent of Bangladesh’s population, and nearly 71.18 percent of them are literate. Nonetheless, only 7.2 percent of the nation’s businesses are headed by women. It was 2.80 percent (0.10 million) in 2001, indicating that an increasing number of women are becoming business owners.

It is gratifying to see that the number of women entrepreneurs in the country has increased significantly over the past several years. This increase is mostly related to a growing awareness among our women to become financially independent by engaging in economic activities in addition to their traditional household responsibilities. The government’s efforts to support women’s entrepreneurship have also contributed to the success of the initiative.

Abida Hossain says, political empowerment of women is critical for ensuring their representation and influence in decision-making processes. Bangladesh has made significant strides in increasing women’s political participation through a variety of measures, including reserved seats for women in local government institutions.

“This has resulted in a greater presence of women in political leadership roles and more gender-sensitive policies. Sheikh Hasina, the Hon’ble Prime Minister of Bangladesh, is an influential figure in shaping the country’s policies and promoting women’s empowerment. Bangladesh has made significant progress in various socioeconomic indicators under her leadership,” she says.

“Women in Bangladesh have overcome obstacles and achieved remarkable success in a variety of fields, from education and healthcare to economic participation and political representation.”

Nahida Khan, a former cabin crew with Emirates Airline, launched her real estate venture in recent months, after leaving job during COVID-19. Then she worked with a few real estate brokers and learned the trade.

“It has been a great learning process for me – especially after working in the airline industry for nearly two decades, then getting into real estate selling – has been a remarkable journey. However, once I gained confidence and a solid client base, I decided to venture out and launch my own business – that carries my signature and footprint,” Nahida Khan, Founder of Nahida Khan Foundation Real Estate, says.

Nahida Khan Foundation runs a school and a charity that takes care of a group of young and destitute children – by providing food, shelter, education and care.

“Most of the profits from my business goes to Nahida Khan Foundation and I want to continue supporting these children as long as I can,” she says.

Fatima Begum is a self-made Bangladeshi women entrepreneur from Chittagong, who started her business venture at the age of 26, when she lost her husband – the sole bread-winner in the family – with three young children to look after.

“I established a retail store at a residential area in Chittagong City in 2007 while looking after three young children,” she says. “It was an uphill task, but I had the courage to move on and eventually success came after I put on lots of efforts. Along with success, came challenges and I was forced to relocate as rival businessmen started to intimidate me.

“Later, I shifted my business to Dubai and now running a group of companies based in Al Aweer fruits and vegetable market – a completely man’s world. I buy containers at wholesale price and sell fruits and vegetables in the local market. Currently, we handle more than 15 containers per month. The business is growing and we are planning to expand our business.”

Nahida Khan and Fatima Begum are some of many success stories of women entrepreneurship.


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Dulal Ahmed Chowdhury

Dulal Ahmed Chowdhury is the Editor of The Daily Dazzling Dawn. Previously, he has been serving in important positions in all the famous national dailies of the Bangladesh since the nineties. He has played a commendable role in journalism by participating in various events at the national and international levels. United Nations Conference, World Climate Conference, SAARC Summit are notable among them.

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