Women’s role in economic development is worldwide of major importance. PUM will promote diversity by creating opportunities for women and youth in entrepreneurship. Both hold strong potential for spurring economic growth, creating employment opportunities and promoting empowerment. Within PUM, female experts still present a clear minority, although their number is growing. One of those female experts is Roosmarie Ruigrok. She adviced and coached eight SMEs in Bangladesh, producing textiles locally in the slums.
BETTER BUSINESS(-CONDITIONS) FOR FEMALE ENTREPRENEURS
Changing global business chains, be it in small steps at a time
Roosmarie Ruigrok adviced and coached eight SMEs in Bangladesh, producing textiles locally in the slums. Aside from sharing her expertise and knowledge in textile-production and related subjects such as marketing she also talked with entrepreneurs and employees alike about CSR-issues. This is her story.
Roosmarie Ruigrok: ‘Working with the women in Bangladesh was very impressive. There is enormous activity and energy and people are very willing and motivated to get ahead. I started with very basic informative training sessions on how to produce better looking products. While working with them, I would talk to women, sometimes girls, about topics as what is the desirable age to marry, to have children. By doing this I wanted them to start thinking about what they want to achieve in life and how to arrive there.’
The technical advice, for instance on how to sow more precisely, did not only have impact on the appearance of the final products, it also saves materials and thus money.
That might not mean so much when you talk about one dress, but it does add up when you count the production of a month or even year. The PUM expert focused in her interactions with the women on what makes them unique: ‘When they know how to profile themselves better, creating individual brands for instance, instead of nameless products, they can add value. Cutting out the middle-men in the chain of production, sometimes five or more persons, is also a quick win to generate more income.’
One of the enterprises she coached was a social enterprise. The owner wants young people to stay and work in Bangladesh, rather than ending up as cheap labour in the Gulf States, where a lot of migrants from Bangladesh venture to, hoping to escape poverty and returning with some savings later. For many of them it turns out it is not that easy to leave the Gulf countries, once there and they end up being exploited without much means to escape.
Back in the Netherlands Roosmarie Ruigrok stayed in touch with the Bangladeshi companies through Facebook. ‘It is not unusual for them to do all online business with a mobile phone. This way I can continue to coach the companies and provide aftercare without actually being at the location’.
The PUM expert has been working in the textile-sector all her life and gradually specialized in CSR, corporate social responsibility, which is a big issue in the textile-sector. Although things are changing, there’s much to do in terms of creating awareness and transparency, both among consumers as well as producers. For Roosmarie Ruigrok the first-hand interaction with women in the slums assured her once more of the need to change global business chains, be it in small steps at a time.