IFC consents Bangladesh project for empowering women

Microfinance Focus April 2, 2012: Bangladesh gets a new phase to women folk for better empowerment in the country after a nod from International Finance Corporation (IFC).
IFC a member of World Bank Group has recognized Bangladesh Export Processing zones as one of the top three winners of annual CEO Gender Award for the project that promoted the cause of nearly 2,00,000 women workers.
The project is said to be the first of its kind to address gender issues within Special Economic Zones (SEZ). This is essential for Bangladesh as women here constitute to 64 per cent of workers. The project targets to establish the development impact and business investment on women and their workforce.
SEZ accounts to 1 per cent of the total global employment, and by moving Bangladeshi zones toward gender-inclusive employment policies; the project has the potential to transform the lives of many women and their societies.
SEZ is a geographical region that has economic and other laws that are more free-market-oriented.  The "Nationwide" laws may be suspended inside a SEZ.
The zones authority project is supported by Bangladesh Investment Climate Fund which is managed by IFC in partnership with the UK Department for International Development and the European Union.
In order to promote the participation and advancement of women, the authority has identified best global gender initiatives from eight countries, including both government and company policies. The authority is now implementing similar initiatives in a pilot program at three levels: for workers, managers and entrepreneurs.
A.K.M. Mahbubur Rahman, Member, Finance, Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority, said, “Women’s economic empowerment is vital if a SEZ is to become an agent for long-term sustainable growth.”
The authority focuses on increasing access to finance and is working with banks to design affordable savings and loan products for women workers. Supervisory training comprising both technical and life skills, has led to increasing women’s participation in worker welfare associations in the zones. The project provides zone factories with incentives to fast-track women’s career development opportunities.
Paramita Dasgupta, who leads IFC South Asia Investment Climate work, said, "Implementing the gender program in export processing zones is important as zones serve as models for best practices to be replicated elsewhere. The gender work in zones is particularly focused on improved and equal opportunities for women in these zones.”

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