Women in Bangladesh face resistance whenever they want to step out of their home and create their own identities. Economic progress over the last few decades has given rise to more women completing higher education, but their participation in the labour force is still very low mainly due to social perceptions over gender roles that refuse to go away.
This is the backdrop in which some women have challenged the barriers and established businesses on their own. The success stories reflect the women's perseverance and commitment to change.
Every journey is unique, but all the tales are equally powerful to inspire other women to reach their potential.
To relay the message of women's strength, The Business Standard identified eight entrepreneurs who have shown resilience in the struggle towards attaining their goals.
They will be recognised and receive awards in recognition of their brave and exemplary roles in society in an event titled, "Unstoppable Women Award 2020" to be held at the Oasis, Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel in Dhaka today, marking this year's International Women's Day.
Education Minister Dr Dipu Moni will grace the event as the chief guest while Selima Ahmad, MP and president of Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Dilshad Nahar Aziz, patron of Soldiers Family Welfare Association and Proyash will attend the programme as special guests.
The event is sponsored by AB Bank.
The programme is also co-sponsored by bKash, Agrani Bank, Islami Bank, Rupali Bank, Pubali Bank and Janata Bank.
The women who will be awarded have ventured out into the business world not only to make a future for themselves. They have also created employment for women in most cases in their communities.
To start with, Farida Easmin set up a startup, "Nari" in Kurigram of Rangpur in 2012 with all her savings from a previous job. She did not get support from her family and credit from banks while establishing the business of jute-made merchandise.
Despite obstacles, Farida continued on the difficult path with her commitment to bringing financial freedom to oppressed women.
Abida Sultana was another courageous woman who continued her husband's business in motor parts after his death in 2002.
Married as a child, it is an extraordinary achievement of gaining a leadership position in the business community in Jessore. At present, she has an annual turnover of Tk 10 crore.
Sharnalata Roy, from Sylhet, was also married off early and became a mother at a young age. But she completed her education. Shrugging aside criticism and all other barriers to became a successful owner of Women's Fashion World, a parlour that has gained fame as a brand in the city.
Going against the norm, Dr Farzana Rahman, after completing her graduation in medical science, went back to her hometown Natore to serve her community. She now runs a hospital, especially focusing on reducing mortality of infants and pregnant women during delivery in the impoverished area.
Taslima Fedous is also helping abandoned and widowed women in her locality in Naogaon by sheltering them at a shelter home. And she runs the shelter with the income from a restaurant that she started eight years ago.
Marium Akter in Narayanganj stepped into the men's world of electronics servicing. With a two-year technical education and experience working with her husband, she has set up a business to manufacture LED bulbs and sound systems.
Razia Sultana of Savar has also shown the path to success to other women through farming. Employing 25 people, she takes pride in identifying herself as a farmer.
Last but not the least, Taslima Sultana Khanam Nishat, of Brahmanbaria, set up a centre in Brahmanbaria from where locally handcrafted items are sold. A lawyer by profession, Taslima took the step to help destitute women.