More than half of the cottage, micro, small and medium enterprises owned by women have failed to pay rents of their offices and factories.
Failing to make the payments, more than 41% of female entrepreneurs want to shut down their businesses, while others want to scale down their operations or relocate their set-ups, according to a report published by the Center for Policy Dialogue.
Though the government allocated funds for women entrepreneurs under stimulus packages meant for CMSMEs, 58% of them have not heard about it and 93% women enterprises have not applied for any loan under the government support scheme, the think-tank said while releasing the report at a virtual press briefing on Thursday.
About 73% of women entrepreneurs do not have a membership of any business association or chamber, the main reason why they are unaware of the stimulus.
CPD's Executive Director Dr Fahmida Khatun said many women entrepreneurs had not applied for loans for the lengthy process to be completed, and many thought they would not get any loan because they were unmarried, divorced or widowed.
Moreover, most of them have been facing income loss, which is why they are worried about making repayment of previous loans and are hesitant about taking out fresh loans, she said.
Banks are unwilling to provide the amount of money that women SME entrepreneurs need, Fahmida said, adding that bank officials said whenever approached for loans that there was no such loan scheme for them.
Against this backdrop, experts and economists recommended harmonising the support scheme for women entrepreneurs by omitting conditions for collateral and mortgage. They also suggested a new stimulus for CMSMEs, specifically targeting women entrepreneurs.
The report says that less than 49% of women-run enterprises are capable of continuing their operations, making deferred payments of rents and taxes to the government, and 87% women entrepreneurs think that the stimulus packages declared by the government cannot help them sustain their businesses.
While presenting the report titled "Socio-economic recovery measures of the government: How much women have benefitted", Fahmida said about 59% of the organisations had run with less than 5 workers before the pandemic but the figure went up to more than 71% amid the global health crisis.
The size of the enterprises shrank because of lay-offs. More than 22% organisations have reduced workers' salaries by a quarter, 8% companies by more than 50% and about 5% enterprises did not make any payment at the reopening of their businesses after the first wave of Covid-19.
Only nearly 7% women entrepreneurs have been benefited by the government allocation worth Tk2,500 per household for 50 lakh households.
Fahmida insisted on training and improving women's access to finance.
She also pointed out that child marriage, burden of unpaid care and domestic work, and violence against women had increased during the pandemic.
As the chief guest of the virtual event, Planning Minister MA Mannan said the government acknowledged the challenges facing women and was working towards creating a better environment for them.
The government will declare some packages to support the poor and small entrepreneurs, he said.
Professor Rounaq Jahan, distinguished fellow of the CPD, said Covid-19 increased disadvantages for women and that a plan of action was necessary to address specific problems facing women entrepreneurs in particular fields.
A task force might be formed to monitor the progress of this work, she added.
Shoko Ishikawa, country representative of the UN Women, said 47 million women and girls were pushed into poverty globally amid the spread of Covid-19. It must be ensured that the support for women is adequate and is delivered transparently.
Shaheen Anam, executive director of Manusher Jonno Foundation, said the stimulus packages announced by the government had been designed for men. "The stimulus is not gender sensitive."
The Covid impacts on child marriage, health, education and some other social indicators will be long lasting, Shaheen said, adding that the fall of infection rate would not be enough to overcome the ramifications.
The five-year plan and other policies of the government should include these issues.
Dr Lila Rashid, former executive director of Bangladesh Bank, said the public commercial banks were playing a good role in implementing the stimulus, but actions of the private banks were not impressive because of their profit-maximising strategies.
Kaniz Almas, CEO and managing director of Persona, said that about 95% of those employed in beauty parlours were women and 80% of them had no other earning sources.
She asked for some cash support and VAT and tax waivers instead of stimulus loans for them.