Selima Ahmad (Entrepreneur and Founder of the Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce)
Selima Ahmad is a self-made business entrepreneur from Bangladesh. She has built her company starting with $500,- into a multi-million dollar international corporation. To enable Bangladeshi women to empower themselves economically, she has established the Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce. For her, human rights and gender equality are closely aligned.
“We can strongly benefit from the implementation of human rights in business operations. We all make an impact both as individuals and corporations, the real question here is how we can deal with this impact.
The impact we can have is nowhere larger than on women. In Bangladesh, I have experienced in person how the unfair treatment of women versus men has hindered women in their attempts to get educated, to start a business and to become financially independent. Bangladesh is a country of microfinance. However, microfinance is too small to give women a ‘real income’, it is like charity. Also the repayment terms are often unrealistic. Women need real bank loans, real government support, real education.
Why are companies important to change this? We all know companies create jobs. But we also know that in countries such as Bangladesh, these companies are often corrupt. These companies comprise of people that come to developing countries to make profits. They want quick results. However, they should take the time to develop a human rights policy and to pressure governments to be more strict. As long as companies reward governments, and vice versa, for not upholding human rights, there are gaps in the protection of human and women’s rights. To close the gap, transparency is the first step. Paying taxes is part of this. If you don’t pay taxes and refuse to be transparent, then what is the difference between a company and a smuggler?