Credit and Finance for MSMEs: The BRICS Women’s Business Alliance, which aims at promoting women’s economic participation and empowerment in BRICS countries, has recommended the five partner nations to explore setting up of a Credit Guarantee Fund to address challenges around access to credit and financial or digital literacy faced by women entrepreneurs. The alliance in its report, which was presented to Prime Minister Narendra Modi by BRICS India chapter Chairperson and Joint Managing Director at Apollo Hospitals Enterprise Sangita Reddy at the 13th BRICS Summit on Thursday, said the fund can be administered by a national rural or agricultural bank or developmental finance institutions for each BRICS country, viz. Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.
Among other recommendations, the alliance also asked for creating a financial literacy tool kit based on the best practices of BRICS countries and encourage banks and other financial institutions to promote financial literacy through the establishment of public and private investment programs. Moreover, to promote women participation in technology and innovation-led sectors, the alliance recommended BRICS, first, Technology School for Women Entrepreneurs — a distance learning educational platform for women to learn different uses of technology and creating access to resources to learn and upskill.
Second, it sought a BRICS Venture Fund for Women Run Digital Companies — a fund to provide low-cost financing for innovation-driven projects led by women entrepreneurs. Third, the alliance suggested a Women’s Business Alliance Digital Platform – a digital platform serving as a one-stop to get in touch with potential partners and investors. The platform will also entail a joint database of women-owned SMEs from BRICS, an e-platform for exporters and importers, and an educational online platform.
According to the latest Gender Gap Report (March 2021) by World Economic Forum, while the gender gaps on educational attainment and health and survival are nearly closed globally, in terms of economic participation and opportunity, the gap remains the second largest after political empowerment, the alliance noted. The report suggested that at the current pace of achievements, around 267.6 years will be taken to close the gap in terms of economic participation and opportunity. Moreover, the economic participation of women saw an adverse impact due to Covid. The Gender Gap report, citing LinkedIn analysis, indicated a decline of women’s hiring into leadership roles, creating a reversal of one to two years of progress across multiple industries.
The alliance also made recommendations around healthcare, food security, environmental safety, creative industries such as film, music, gaming, fashion apart from tourism and public policy. Former MSME Minister Nitin Gadkari at an event called Conference on Empowering Women Entrepreneurs in March 2020 had said that India has “now around 80 lakh women entrepreneurs in MSME sector”. The overall MSME base in the country is 6.33 crore, as per MSME Ministry’s annual report. According to the gender research and advocacy firm Initiative for What Works to Advance Women and Girls in the Economy (IWWAGE), out of 100 business owners, only seven are female in India.