July 23, 2009

Woman in Bangladesh

GONE are the days when a woman used to be frowned upon for daring to step out of her house to pursue a career. No longer is her job laughingly dismissed as a mere 'time pass'. Shouldering the financial responsibilities of a family is also being accepted in more middle and upper class households, the female garments workers and brick breakers already having claimed respect as bread-winners in working class families.

With greater acceptance, there are now a wider range of career choices available to women. Let's take a look at some of these.

After generations of feeding hungry hordes, the art of hospitality comes naturally to the fairer sex. For those who have a knack for cooking, but not enough finances to really push it forward, one can start small by taking orders for food items for special occasions.

If you possess the location for it, small cafes are great investments. As long as the coffee keeps flowing, a few light snacks and a cosy atmosphere is all you'll need. In this busy city, people will be glad to find a quiet place to unwind.

Finally, if you have the dosh for it, restaurants have great potentials, although they also come with great risks. There's the problem of finding the right location, selecting the right menu, creating a proper ambience, hiring staff, finding an attractive 'hook' or gimmick that sets you apart from the half-dozen other eateries that might be located right on the same road, and there's still no guarantee that you'll float. But if you can get it up and running, though, the dividends could outweigh the risks.

Advertisement and event management
Watch a mother try to convince her child to eat his vegetables, and you know that women have a talent for persuasion. This could be channeled towards fields like advertising. To begin with you must evaluate your specialisation and your ability to deliver with professionalism. In a global environment you will need to create an edge over others. But the key would be the focus on understanding the market; whether you're selling a product, or promoting a brand, you have to know who your buyers are, and what they want. Pushing your brand or product also requires persuasive skills, and one needs to have a lot of confidence and awareness to succeed in this field.

Other than pushing products and brands, the goal could also be raising awareness, be it about an issue, or for a charitable cause, and this is where event management comes in. For these, you bring in the same kind of energy and creativity that you would in ensuring your party makes your neighbours green with envy. Most women are naturally good at organizing such 'do's and drumming up support for their causes, and so would shine in this field.

Books: Almost a hundred years ago Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hussain was able to publish her book- Sultana's Dream. She was fortunate. It was a groundbreaking event in the history of Bengali literature. As a woman entrepreneur you could support this admirable cause of publishing. Today, other women writers work and contribute favourably to social issues, while at the same time deriving far reaching economic benefits. It would be an ideal stepping stone in the world of publishing. I believe there should be a great deal more women writers sweeping the domain of the literary world. Our culture, language, people, and environment could use more gender perspective. You could publish fiction, poetry or drama that has specific artistic value, or cook books, travelogue, or even books on motivation or homes and gardens that has found enthusiastic readership.

Magazines: This is a business where women have shown leadership with a definite direction. As in the past, this business can target a specific women-centric audience or a larger general one depending on the focus of the work. It is evident especially in Bangladesh that women have shown a more sensitive regard for their own issues than their male counterparts. The scenario, however, has changed somewhat as there is considerable growth in the business and larger publishing houses having taken initiatives with gender specific examinations. Lifestyle magazines with a larger scope for action have done particularly well. In order to launch such a business you must bear in mind that sustenance cannot be accomplished on the sales of the magazine but rather depends on the paid advertisement in the publication. The magazine must divulge on current issues. That is the key to any success.

Journals: There could be more journals on specific subjects. It is a great educational tool. Although fast losing its relevance in the era of electronic media where the Internet plays a significant role, art, industry, trade, medical, educational and other related subjects of serious magnitude could be updated and put forward through journals.

Hair and beauty
Traditionally, beautification has always been seen as a woman's prerogative, one of those feminine things that could be taken for granted. With so much riding on presentation these days, people in the professional sphere have begun to take their appearance very seriously, thus providing incentive for the emerging beauty industry. We have more beauty pageants now, more magazines, more models and fashion shows, all of which has created a growing demand for the hair and beauty industry.

We see spas and beauty parlours mushrooming up around the city, offering all kinds of personal grooming services and treatments. With the clientele becoming increasingly well-informed, the industry is under pressure to raise the quality of its services, so this field, as well as growing in importance, also requires intensive technical training. The need for such skill-development programs has profound implications for the industry. This should be further investigated.

Academic Institutions
Schools: Customarily the teaching profession for women has been embraced positively by our patriarchal society. In the past two decades we have found many schools run and managed by women. The success story of all these women should inspire many more to consider an entrepreneurial activity in developing an educational establishment. I believe there will always be a demand for better institutions.

One could start with preschool activity and work to a primary level. She could slowly build the foundation for a high school. In order to address specific needs of the age based requirements of key stage programmes you must be trained to attain good results and also train the faculty. On many occasions we find inexperienced teachers with colossal responsibilities.

It is the responsibility of the management to provide high standards. The business of teaching is a venerable trade that should always be regarded as a commendable contribution to the society. Educating is a sensitive activity and deserves high regard only if you are providing excellent service worthy of children's needs. Dedication and professionalism is needed to carry out such a venture. If done appropriately there is a potential for exceptional achievement.

Women have the potential for being solid entrepreneurs. Given the opportunity they can be creative and determined executors. We would all like to see more women working in an open market environment that encourages development and financial growth for individuals. A country must progress with all its national components. The women folk are very much part of the apparatus. Women need to gear up to the next level of economic emancipation. They should not just be players but rather take on the challenges of decision-making capacity. They should be involved in more complex planes of business activities. I think we can all agree that their right to civic and social liberty shall always lie with their capacity to pursue monetary empowerment.

Collected from The Daily Star.
Photo: Zahedul I Khan

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