e-commerce helping to make self-reliant
Mahfuja Mukul: According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), Bangladesh is now the second most gender equal country in Asia, top in South Asia and ranks 47th among 144 countries of the world in the Global Gender Gap Index.
Digital devices and e-commerce platforms have created linkages between rural women entrepreneurs and marketplace that helps the country’s marginal womenfolk being self-reliant by offering them fair prices and various selling options. The pandemic situation in a way helped the women selling their products in easier ways as currently the numbers of consumers of e-commerce sites have been increasing day by day due to lockdown to check the spread of coronavirus.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s flagship digital Bangladesh campaign opened the door of opportunity in front of the rural women entrepreneurs as now they can sell their products in fair price easily without exposing to the virus by staying at home. “Those days are over. Now I don’t need to send the vegetable that I do produce to the local market. I started selling those to different e-commerce sites through my smartphone,” said Naich Akhtar, a rural women entrepreneur from Bogura.
After graduating from a local college, Akhtar started homestead farming adjacent to her home along with small scale poultry and making handicrafts with other women of her family. “My husband was used to carry our products to wholesalers of the local market for sale. But most of the time, we didn’t get fair prices for our lack of knowledge regarding the real market prices,” she said. But, she continued with a victorious smile, “When I got a smartphone, I started contacting to different e-commerce sites for selling my products in much better prices compare to our local market.”
Currently, the online marketing platforms like Paramdia, Market Bangla, Abad, Daraj Bangladesh and Food for Nation are directly buying agricultural products from Akhter. “Now, What I need to do to sell my products … just to get in touch with wholesalers online through my smartphone,” Akhter said thanking the digital Bangladesh endeavor of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
The trend and confidence of the consumers to buy products from online has been increased a lot amid the pandemic and as consequence the numbers of internet and smartphone users have been increased with parity.
Experts said Internet has definitely become a powerful tool for women’s empowerment in developing countries like Bangladesh as it helps them overcome some intrinsic cultural barriers of limited mobility on their own as well as safety and security issues.
However, Akhter pointed out some constrains in flourishing women entrepreneurs at the rural level especially lack of technology in producing their products. “We live in villages. We don’t have that much knowledge about the modern technology in cultivation. More government initiatives are needed in imparting us training on technology as well as making the online marketing tools more accessible to the rural women,” she said.
The women friendly Awami League government has already taken different initiatives to empower womenfolk by imparting training on various income generating activities like swinging, tailoring, handicraft, computer, poultry and homestead farming. “With government support and fruit of digital Bangladesh women are making a revolution in e-commerce and small business,” State Minister for women and children affairs Fazilatun Nesa Indira said.
She said the government provides loans at discounted interest to women as well as allocated Taka one billion as ‘Women Entrepreneurship Fund for mitigating their access to finance while formed ‘Joyeeta Foundation’ for facilitating market access to 18,000 women entrepreneurs across the country.
Along with the government, different development organizations have also been involved in different activities for making women entrepreneur across the country.
Mahmuda Akhtar of Moddhakatuli village of Gabtoli upazila in Bogura district is one of the women who took poultry training from a project run by Action aid Bangladesh. “In the beginning of pandemic, I had passed a hard time to sell my chickens and eggs. But after few days, I had communicated with an e-commerce site through my smartphone and they willingly bought my products,” said Mahmuda who has 1500 chicken in her small poultry farm.
After that, Mahmuda said, currently she sells chicken and eggs only to the e-commerce sites as they are giving fair prices than the local market.
Like Mahmuda, Baby Rahman of the same upazila have been succeeded selling different handicraft including Nakshi katha through different e-commerce sites.
Asma Islam of Habirbari union of Bhaluka also showed happiness selling vegetable to different popular e-commerce sites like Agora, Daraz and Abad market place. “I didn’t know anything about online marketplaces. My college going son helped me in selling vegetable through e-commerce site when he saw that I am not getting fair prices in local market,” she said.
Razib Ahmed, a director of e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh (e-CAB), also acknowledged the women’s domination in the e-commerce landscape while Bangladesh witnessed more than 8 crore active internet users.
As women empowerment is one of the core commitments of the current Awami League government, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina formulated and adopted the progressive ‘National Women Development Policy’ for the first time with a set of goals to socially, economically, politically and legally empower the women of Bangladesh, in 2011.
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