Women Entrepreneurs in A Country Where Business was Men’s Domain

Women entrepreneurs in Nepal have come far but they still have a long way to go. Women entrepreneurs are still waiting for a situation where they will get a chance of working as freely as their male counterparts.

Siromani Dhungana/UWB

Over the last few weeks, I have met several women entrepreneurs who are doing amazing work in the entrepreneurial world. I listened to women entrepreneurs and got motivated from their amazing journey of struggle.

I was truly inspired by the struggle of the first generation women entrepreneurs in Nepal. I know, women still face problem from their very commencement of enterprise in Nepal. The society still does not believe in their capacity and even their own family does not want to invest their capital in the business run by women due to lack of confidence in the women’s ability to run a venture successfully.

Yet, they are doing very good especially in Small and Micro Enterprises (SMEs) field. Currently, women own about 14,300 small and medium enterprises in Nepal, accounting for 2 percent of GDP (registered formal sector) and employing over 200,000 workers. A study commissioned by International Finance Corporation (IFC), private sector lending arm of the World Bank Group, suggests that meeting their current credit requirements of US$ 106 million can increase their contribution to the economy.

Long Journey

The other day, I spoke with Hajuri Bista, a first generation women entrepreneur in Nepal. Business was men’s domain even few decades ago, she says. You know people used to laugh at women who were in favor of setting up venture, she shares her experience. Entrepreneurship was a male preserve and the idea of women taking up entrepreneurial activities was considered as a distant dream, she adds.

It was really challenging to get out of the dogma that women should only take care of household chores and not venture into the business world. Even after the onset of democracy in 1990, I have seen many aspiring women entrepreneurs breaking into tears in meetings due to unexpected hurdles and apathy from their family and the society,” she recalls. “Why should be women engaged in business?” was a common mindset at that time, she shares her experience.

Waiting for Opportunities

In a brief conservation during recently held Nepal Economic Summit 2014, Ambica Shrestha, another first generation women entrepreneur and president of The Dwarika’s Hotel, firmly said, “Nepali women are empowered enough and can lead big corporations. They are waiting for opportunities. The question is whether the society will let them prove their salt.”

Business/Entrepreneurship: Let Them Take Risks

Business and entrepreneurship need innovation and risk. But, is the society positive to allow women entrepreneurship to take such risks? The answer is not entirely positive.

Parents still want their daughters to be involved in jobs rather than in business. The reason is not only that ‘they care about their daughters’, but also they do not want their daughters to venture into business world which may put their finances at risk.

Now, the time has come when every family should allow their daughters to take risks and enter into the entrepreneurial world.

It’s about Progress

Advocating for women in business is not a feminist approach, shares Pramila Rijal, President of SAARC Chamber Women Entrepreneurs Council (SCWEC). Women with professional backgrounds in business and management could be of great service to the family and entire society, she says. So its about progress and equality.

She opines that Nepali women entrepreneurs have still a long way to go. Nepali women entrepreneurs have not broken the glass ceiling but they have already made the first cracks, she summarizes her opinion.

Equality for Women Means Progress for All

In the end, I conclude this blog with highlights of a thought provoking message by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:

“Countries with more gender equality have better economic growth. Companies with more women leaders perform better…Parliaments with more women enact more legislation on key social issues such as health, education, anti-discrimination and child support. The evidence is clear: equality for women means progress for all.”

“I also have a message for my fellow men and boys: play your part. All of us benefit when women and girls – your mothers, sisters, friends and colleagues — can reach their full potential.”

(Siromani Dhungana is a Kathmandu-based journalist and Media Educator. He is also editor of United We Blog, Nepal’s first blog site. Email: siromanidhungana@gmail.com | Twitter: @siromanid.)

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