Women Economic Empowerment and SMEs : A Case Study on Bangladesh
Abstract: Low income countries such as Bangladesh are among many of the developing countries in the world where people suffer from poverty which affect their living conditions, especially the empowerment, more specifically economic empowerment of rural and/or indigent women. Many actors such as non-government organizations (NGOs) aspire towards working on means which will improve the empowerment status of rural women in the economy of Bangladesh. It is hoped to thereby reduce poverty levels which in turn they hope will impact the society and its economy positively. One of the methods which many developing countries have chosen in order to increase economic empowerment of rural women is through encouraging their participation in the operation of small scale and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). Bangladesh is thus trying to increase the power and control women have at different levels of society by exerting a significant role on the use of SMEs to generate empowerment among rural women and to transform the economic condition of these impoverished women and their families by providing them means of earning income and hence making them economically more stable. However, there are still many impediments which hinder the success of SMEs in empowering women in Bangladesh; such as entrenched gender inequalities, lack of knowledge and access to livelihood resources, unbalanced power structures, etc.. These impediments are even more prevalent among rural women and affect the impact that SMEs have on the lives of rural Bangladeshi women. If these issues can be resolved rural/indigent women of Bangladesh can be better empowered through the activities of women-owned enterprises to offer better standards of living for rural women. This study identified various ways that SMEs positively impact the lives of indigent women in Bangladesh and change their social and economic conditions, drawing on theories and concepts of empowerment, power, and alternative development. The connection between empowerment and livelihood resources have important implications for women economic empowerment. This connection was in turn used to discover the reasons behind why so many rural women suffer from lack of empowerment, power and social and political invisibility despite the push by NGOs and the government to make women a part of the paid workforce through women empowerment initiatives.
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