March 5: Despite the effects of Covid-19 pandemic, loans offered to women entrepreneurs have increased by 85 percent in the last seven months. According to South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SAWTEE), such information was shared during a webinar organized on March 4 on the impact of the COVID-19 on women entrepreneurs in Nepal.
By mid-July 2020 financial institutions’ lending to women entrepreneurs stood at Rs 4 billion while the amount has reached Rs 27 billion as of now, informed Dr Gunakar Bhatta, executive director of Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) at the webinar titled ‘Towards recovery: Women entrepreneurs coping with the pandemic’ organised by SAWTEE. He also pointed out that the number of female borrowers has also increased three folds during the period.
Highlighting the difficulty in access to finance experienced by the women entrepreneurs, Chandni Joshi, senior gender, rights and policy specialist, expressed that investing in women should not be considered a charity but as a smart decision. She urged the private sector to invest in women-owned/-led businesses as viable business decisions.
Shobha Gurung, vice president of the Federation of Nepalese Cottage and Small Industries (FNCSI), pointed out the difficulty faced by their members as the economic activities shut-down but they also utilized the period to enhance the digital and financial literacy of the members. She pointed out that during disasters like these, small businesses need more support from the government to survive.
Reeta Simha, president of the Federation of Women Entrepreneurs’ Association of Nepal (FWEAN), also seconded that suggestion. She also insisted along with the soft skills entrepreneurs need better support in the form of finances for their recovery and revival.
Dr Mona Shrestha Adhikari, CEO of Enterprise for Management, Economic Reform and Gender Equality (EMERGE), added that women entrepreneurs need more support to help transition from brick-and-mortar setting to digital. She added more analysis is needed to examine disaster impacts through a gender lens.
According to a statement issued by SAWTEE, the webinar was organized to disseminate the findings of a small-scale survey of women entrepreneurs engaged in the manufacturing sector to examine the impact of the pandemic on their ability to do business. The survey found that 61 percent of the women-owned businesses reported having been affected severely by the pandemic and the lockdown measures; 57 percent of the respondent sought loans to cope with the pandemic; 56 percent of the respondents used e-commerce platforms for sales or promotion during the period. Further, 92 percent of the respondents were not aware of any support facilities offered by the government, the statement quoted Dikshya Singh, senior research officer of SAWTEE, as saying.
Dr Posh Raj Pandey, chairman of SAWTEE, pointed out the lack of mentorship offered to women entrepreneurs, by private sector associations, government and civil society, during the pandemic to help them innovate and shift towards the digital landscape.
The participants in the webinar included women entrepreneurs, representatives from civil society, policymakers and academia. The participants pointed out limited access to information for the women entrepreneurs that inhibits their ability to expand their businesses. Similarly, they also insisted that the difficulty in accessing finance needs to be addressed for enhancing women’s participation in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.