Bangladeshi businesswomen give back

Nipa, 18, and Runa, 27, are two savvy women that mean business: they’re using their small startups to take village markets by storm and spread the prosperity around!

Living in a country where more than 30% of the population lives under the poverty line* and few viable employment opportunities exist, these two women are proving the power of investing in women.

About 40% of the population of Bangladesh, is underemployed – working only a few hours a week for low wages*. The few jobs that are available to women – such as those within the garment industry – often leave them vulnerable to exploitation and exposed to poor working conditions.

To support improved livelihoods, Plan International is helping young Bangladeshi women avoid hazardous positions and pursue their own ventures. This way, they can secure a sustainable source of income – on their own terms.

Working with local partners, we help provide access to training and mentorships for women so they can develop entrepreneurial skills and successfully launch their own small businesses – just like Nipa and Runa have.

Meet Nipa: the manufacturing maven


Nipa, 18.

Nipa runs a motorcycle grips business out of her home in a community in rural Bangladesh. Through her venture, which has been running for over a year, Nipa is able to financially support herself and her family.

Together she and her father, mother and siblings all play a valuable part in the manufacturing process, contributing to the success of the business. Nipa receives ongoing business training and support from a Plan International partner, which helps her effectively monitor, manage and grow her company.

Additionally, she regularly connects with a program mentor, Ashfa – a prominent and experienced businesswoman who works in the city capital as a TV production and IT professional. Ashfa offers Nipa guidance on potential business improvements and industry opportunities – valuable advice that Nipa takes to heart.

She hopes to expand her business into a bigger location and employ additional staff – helping distribute her products to more people and support the livelihoods of even more community members. Inspired to continue her path of learning and development, she plans to go back to school and put her ideas in motion.

Meet Runa: the hometown health professional


Runa, 27.

Runa is mother to a 5-year-old daughter and lives in a remote village in Bangladesh. Unfortunately, Runa had to drop out of school and was unable to pursue any physical work due to a leg disability. Equipped with few employable skills and the added challenge of finding a physically accommodating job, Runa struggled to find a way to support herself and her family.

Determined to overcome every obstacle, Runa found work assisting a doctor, where she received basic first aid training. With the hospital nearest to her village a more than 20-minute drive away, she saw an opportunity to secure suitable employment, while also contributing to the wellbeing of her community.

Supported by a Plan International-funded business skills and mentorship program, Runa now runs her own small pharmacy – selling pharmaceuticals and conducting basic health checks for community members.

Moving forward, she aims to gain her drug-selling license and raise enough money to buy a fridge to store insulin and vaccines to keep them at the proper temperature.

One day, Runa hopes to establish a clinic with a part-time doctor to look after her community’s health needs. Until then, she embraces the meaningful role of providing the only medical service available in her entire village.

See these inspiring and innovative women in action!

  • Nipa with family

     / Nipa and her family cut plastic strips to make motorcycle grips for their home business

  • Nipa and Ashfa

     / Nipa shows her homemade motorcycle grips to her professional business mentor, Ashfa.

  • Nipa does bookkeeping.

     / Nipa does bookkeeping to keep her accounts and records organized.

  • Runa examines a patient.

     / Runa checks a customer’s blood pressure at her pharmaceutical store.

  • Runa writes medical records.

     / After giving a basic health check to a customer, Runa discusses and records medical information.

  • Runa with a group of community members – largely children.

     / Runa (centre) with members of her community, outside her pharmaceutical store.

Thanks to these entrepreneurial initiatives, Bangladeshi women like Nipa and Runa are gaining the skills and income-generating opportunities they need to become financially independent.

They now have newfound confidence, self-sufficiency and a means to support themselves and their families, empowering them to positively contribute to their communities and uplift the people around them.

Nipa and Runa are just one example of how investing in girls and women can help break the cycle of poverty.

Yet, in addition to economic barriers, millions of women and girls across the developing world cannot access crucial rights and resources, simply because they are girls. Plan International's Because I am a Girl initiative is working to end global gender equality and promote girls’ rights so that millions of girls, women and their communities can look forward to brighter futures.

Now you too have the chance to enrich and improve others’ lives. Invest in girls and change the world.

Sponsor the Because I am a Girl project today!

*Source: CIA World Factbook, World Bank