The International Trade Centre (ITC) has launched a Business Support Organization (BSO) Directory for women-owned businesses in Bangladesh as part of its SheTrades Commonwealth project funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID).
‘The creation of the BSO Directory under the SheTrades Commonwealth project is a very welcome initiative,’ said Safiqul Islam, managing director of the SME Foundation, Bangladesh’s leading organization for developing small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which will host the BSO Directory.
‘Having a one-stop-shop for business associations and other crucial information will provide women-owned small and medium-sized enterprises easy access to much-needed information on BSOs.
The SME Foundation is very pleased to collaborate with ITC on this initiative and support SMEs in Bangladesh,’ said Mr. Islam.
For many women entrepreneurs, the main obstacle to accessing business support services is a lack of awareness about existing services offered by BSOs, as well as difficulties establishing contact with relevant BSOs contacts and obtaining information.
‘We have struggled a lot to identify which BSOs provide the kind of support that our business needs,’ said Nurun Nahar Fancy, managing director of tech start-up String Technology. ‘Often, we had to rely on information from unknown sources. Now, we have all the essential information about the associations in one place.’
Engagement with BSOs is a crucial channel through which the SheTrades Commonwealth project aims to help develop a more gender-inclusive business ecosystem in Bangladesh.
ITC has delivered numerous online training courses, workshops and coaching to BSOs in Bangladesh to promote more inclusive service portfolios for women-owned businesses since the launch of the SheTrades Commonwealth project in 2018.
In addition to being a one-stop catalogue to access key profiles and relevant BSO contact information, the BSO Directory will provide updates on training opportunities and services.
It will also provide information on membership application processes and an access hub containing data and pointers to ongoing women-focused initiatives.
The launch of the BSO Directory also provides a timely response to efforts launched by BSOs to help clients deal with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The BSO Directory includes a dedicated COVID-19 section that offers trusted information on various institutional initiatives and services open to women-owned businesses.
For instance, the BSO Directory highlights the range of support services provided by the SME Foundation to help SMEs address the crisis.
These include financial stimulus packages for SME digital transformation and daily webinars to support women entrepreneurs across the country with crisis management.
Beyond the BSO Directory, the SheTrades Commonwealth project works closely with BSOs across Bangladesh, Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria on pandemic reposnse measures.
It has developed a COVID-19 Crisis Management Toolkit that provides women-owned businesses with resources to assess the impact of the crisis and (re-)design their business models for greater resilience. The toolkit can be accessed here.
In December 2019, the SheTrades Commonwealth project was awarded a one-year extension with additional funding of £3.5 million.
In the coming months, the project will continue delivering capacity-building activities to BSOs and their staff to promote more inclusive business support services for women entrepreneurs.
BSO Directories will also be deployed in Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria.
About the SheTrades Commonwealth Programme − The SheTrades Commonwealth programme aims to increase economic growth and job creation in Commonwealth countries by increasing the participation of women-owned businesses in international trade.
The project is funded by the UK Department for International Development and implemented by the International Trade Centre (ITC) under the framework of the SheTrades Initiative.
The International Trade Centre is the joint agency of the World Trade Organization and the United Nations.
ITC assists small and medium-sized enterprises in developing and transition economies to become more competitive in global markets, thereby contributing to sustainable economic development within the frameworks of the Aid-for-Trade agenda and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.