Since 2015, The Coca-Cola Foundation in partnership with United Purpose has empowered over 100,000 women in Bangladesh through the establishment of the Women Business Center (WBC) program. Since then 70 WBCs spread across Jamalpur, Khulna and Bagerhat districts have been set up to address the daily obstacles that women entrepreneurs face and provide necessary solutions to improve the wellbeing and economic empowerment of women.
The foundation today has announced the launch of 30 new Women Business Centers (WBC) of which 15 new centers will be formed in Sunamganj and 15 more will be formed in Gopalganj District to improve the wellbeing of women in those area by creating a sustainable business model for 40,000 new and existing women entrepreneurs. The plan is to cover 15,000 new women producers in remote Haor regions of Sunamganj district, 15,000 women producers in Gopalganj district and 10,000 women producers in Dewangang and Bakshigang Upazilas, Jamalpur district.
This new chapter of WBC will be similar to that of the last five years and will also focus on initiatives like the WBCs from other regions like Jamalpur. The primary goal of these centers is to support women and empower them to overcome the daily obstacles. At the same time, people come to the WBC to pay their electricity bill, pay their taxes, make photocopies of documents, click pictures etc. Sometimes kids from nearby school come over to buy their stationaries and buy packaged food items.
The Coca-Cola Foundation’s spokesperson said, “It is very important to promote women’s empowerment so that women can participate fully in economic activities in all sectors. Women’s empowerment is essential for strengthening the economy, achieving sustainable development improving the quality of life for women and men and thus the community as a whole. The Women Business Center program in Bangladesh has transformed the lives and empowered 100,000 women. The impact of the program has inspired TCCF to continue empower women and provide them with opportunities.”
Recognizing the unique challenges women face in starting their own businesses, these WBCs will be integrated with the government social protection schemes and poverty eradication programming to promote and raise awareness of mental health issues as well as provide support to around 140,000 women. This serves the important function of supporting social structures that can sustain women’s enterprise in the long term and increase resilience to personal and community stressors.
Bilkis Begum from Igenipara WBC- Maderganj, Jamalpur said, “Coca-Cola’s WBCs have not only helped women individually but they have had a positive impact on the community too. Women here are now more confident, they feel happy to be able to do meaningful work as well as contribute to their family.”
The announcement of the launching of new WBCs was made at a virtual seminar held by The Coca-Cola Foundation and United Purpose. The seminar was conducted to share the experiences and findings of the previous Women Business Centers’ success stories. The Chief Guest at the event was Dr. Shaikh Muslima Moon, Additional Director, Department of Women Affairs, Ministry of Women and Children Affairs. The special guests at the seminar were Hamidur Rahman, Ex-DG; Department of Agricultural Extension and Mary Sweeney, Gender and Inclusion Advisor; Self Help Africa. David Netscher, Advisor, GIZ, Dhaka Bangladesh, Dr. Pronoy Kanti Das, Civil Surgeon , Jamalpur, Nitai Chandra Banik, Deputy Director, DAE, Jamalpur, Khanindra Kalita, Global Program Manager, Reading Glasses for Improved Livelihoods (RGIL), VisionSpring, Mohommad Arifur Rahman, Deputy Director, Department of Horticulture DAE, Jamalpur, Farhana Akter, Research Officer, Department of Women Affairs, Wahida Bashar Ahmed, Gender & DRR Analyst National Resilience Programme -NRP (DWA Part) including representatives from the US Embassy, high officials from United Purpose and Coca-Cola attended the event.
Sriramappa Gonchikara, Country Director, United Purpose said, “It gives us a great deal of joy to see the positive impact of the existing WBCs. The success stories of these women entrepreneurs have encouraged us to expand our operations and launch many new WBCs across Bangladesh. Hopefully, these new centers and their newly linked WBC retail outlets will create even greater levels of impact than we’ve seen to date.”
During the seminar, 5 women entrepreneurs from the Women Business Center were honoured with the Joita Award 2021 for their outstanding work. The winners were; Bilkis Begum from Igenipara WBC- Maderganj, Jamalpur, Moslima Begum- from Char Polish Maddhapara- Melandah, Jamalpur, Shila Rani Biswas from Shiali WBC , Rupsa , Khulna, Archana Mondol from Shailmari WBC, Batiaghata , Khulna and Taslima Begum from Sreefaltala WBC, Rupsa, Khulna.
About The Coca-Cola Foundation [TCCF]
Established in 1984, The Coca-Cola Foundation has invested more than $1.2 billion around the world to protect the environment, empower women to thrive and to enhance the overall wellbeing of people and communities.