Partnership urged to boost Muslim women role
Manama, December 14, 2012
Greater partnership among women in Islamic countries is necessary for economic empowerment as no country can flourish without taking into consideration half the population, said experts at the Sixth Forum for Businesswomen in Islamic Countries held in Bahrain.
"Muslim women need to understand that they are a diverse group who can learn from each other's success stories and business plans," remarked Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry founder president Selima Ahmad.
Across the Islamic world, especially in South Asia women continue to suffer from lack of access to market and finance, she told the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication, on the sidelines of the forum.
"No country can flourish without taking into consideration half the population, who comprise an important part of human resources," she stated.
Bangladesh, where Ahmad has done pioneering advocacy work in women empowerment, is well-known for its microfinance initiatives. However, it still remains a challenge for women to apply for large loans.
"Microfinance is widely available for amounts such as $200 but if they wish to secure loans of $1,000 or $2,000, banks were unwilling to lend," she said.
Realising the gap in finance for women, Ahmad now helps women secure loans without collateral and low interest rates. Capacity building and training are necessary for women entrepreneurs, she added.
"Most of them have taken their first step outside home and are still unaware of the world, hence they require training."
Physical and mental health of women are important to enable greater productivity for the economy.
"Domestic violence and neglect of reproductive health are issues we are tackling as they hamper productivity," said Ahmad.
In Bahrain, the government and the Supreme Council for Women have been supportive of women entrepreneurs, said Global Cargo and Traveller's Services deputy chairwoman Huda Janahi.
"Women do face challenges but we still manage to grow our businesses and expand," said Janahi, who is one of the four ambassador-entrepreneurs chosen by Unido.
"As an ambassador, I recently spent two weeks in Tunisia explaining the facilities and government support available for women in Islamic countries," she added.-TradeArabia News Service