Vol. 4 Num 293 Wed. March 24, 2004  

S Asian women entrepreneurs start confce to talk their role in poverty reduction

South Asian women entrepreneurs started a two-day regional conference of Saarc Women Entrepreneurs Council (SWEC) yesterday in Dhaka to discuss women entrepreneurs' roles and responsibilities in poverty reduction in the region.

President Iajuddin Ahmed inaugurated the conference jointly organised by Women Entrepreneurs Association of Bangladesh (WEAB) and Saarc Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) at Dhaka Sheraton Hotel.

The president urged women entrepreneurs to provide underprivileged women with education to help them start income generating activities.

"Women in South Asia remain backward and homebound. You, the successful women entrepreneurs, should feel that without education women will not be able to achieve the desired economic target," said the president.

The president also said women in the Saarc region should come forward in pharmaceuticals, biotech, information technology, tourism, agriculture, garment and health sectors.

After the inauguration ceremony, the president also opened Saarc Village Fair, which is showcasing the products produced by South Asian women.

Commerce Minister Amir Khosru Mahmud Chowdhury, State Minister for Cultural Affairs Selima Rahman, President of SCCI Macky Hashim and Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) President Abdul Awal Mintoo also spoke at the inaugural function.

The commerce minister urged women entrepreneurs to give more emphasis on setting up small and medium enterprises. "You can establish pickles producing units in your home, which can be a good export item," Khosru told the women entrepreneurs.

The FBCCI president said the government should encourage women entrepreneurs in service sectors like hospitality and catering industries, which are linked to agricultural, dairy and poultry products.

In her welcome speech, newly elected SWEC Chairperson Nasreen Awal Mintoo demanded inclusion of women professionals and wage earners in the South Asian Free Trade Area (Safta) process.

Some 15 entrepreneurs from Saarc countries are attending the conference.

Former president of SWEC Arcbt Yvette Kahawita De Silva delivered the vote of thanks at the inaugural function attended by representatives from government and non-government organisations and donor agencies and diplomats.