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Women entrepreneurs ‘discouraged’ from joining procurement processes

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The comments were made at a roundtable on the public procurement policy and gender perspectives organized at a Dhaka hotel on Thursday.

Women entrepreneurs are being discouraged from participating in the government’s procurement processes due to a lack of awareness around the policies and systems used, several leading experts said yesterday.

The comments were made at a roundtable on the public procurement policy and gender perspectives organized at a Dhaka hotel on Thursday by local think tank Build Bangladesh, Bangladesh Women in Technology (BWIT), and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) of World Bank Group.

“Although women account for 55% of the population of the country, their participation in many fields, including business, is very low,” Bangladesh Bank Board of Directors member Jamaluddin Ahmed said.

“Entrepreneurship in Bangladesh is going through a transitional period. Even male entrepreneurs are struggling to handle their businesses properly.”
BWIT research presented at the event shows that of the 49,176 bidders currently in the country, only 30 of them are women.

“Bangladesh sees a mammoth procurement scheme every year, but women’s participation in the procurement process was still poor,” Build Bangladesh CEO Ferdaus Ara Begum said in her presentation to the dialogue.

“A lack of room for women in the Public Procurement Act 2006 and Public Procurement Rule 2008 are responsible for the situation.

“Female entrepreneurs should familiarize themselves with both the act and the rule, so that they may increase their knowledge of the procurement process and reap the benefits.”
The Build Bangladesh CEO also said a gender gap in technology causes women to fall behind. “This needs to be remedied,” she said.

Several women entrepreneurs and businesswomen at the discussion complained that they face harassment when dealing with tenders, particularly through demands for bribes from government officials.

Many of them demanded that a quota be allocated for women in the bidding process.
Addressing the dialogue as chief guest, Comptroller and Auditor General Mohammad Muslim Chowdhury said the gender imbalance can be tackled by promoting the electronic government procurement (e-GP) system.

“The e-GP system had led to some benefit for women entrepreneurs, but more features for women are necessary,” he said. “Furthermore, awareness of the e-GP system needs to be raised among women entrepreneurs.”

Faruque Hossain, director general of the Central Procurement Technical Unit under the Planning Ministry, said measures that do not contradict the constitution and relevant laws have to be taken to encourage female entrepreneurs.

However, he forewarned that the implementation of all tender clauses is not always possible for all procurement.

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