Women in Tajikistan have traditionally struggled to establish themselves successfully as entrepreneurs, however this looks set to change as Tajikistan has now become the most recent EBRD country of operations to enter into the Women in Business programme. This programme has been designed to promote and support female entrepreneurs in the country via access to business know-how and finance to stimulate the growth of business. This has been facilitated by a financial contribution through the EBRD's Small Business Impact Fund from the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs.
Under the Women in Business programme, the EBRD aims to provide business advice and as much as $8 million USD to its partner financial institutions which can then be lent on to female-led businesses. The Bank will also offer female entrepreneurs access to training courses about entrepreneurship, mentoring and business know-how advice from international experts and local consultants in order to help grow their companies.
MDO Imon International and Bank Eskhata are two of the Tajik partner banks to become the financial intermediaries on this project, receiving $1 million USD of sub-loans to lend on to female managed or owned businesses nationwide. It is hoped that further local financial institutions will enter into the programme over the coming years.
Female led businesses in Tajikistan face extra constraints due to the lack of any dedicated financing products and poor customer service. Women are much more likely to borrow money from their friends or family to start their business, and poor business skills as well as poor financial literacy also mean that women have a lack of exposure to knowledge networks and business opportunities, leading to female led businesses remaining at the micro business level.
The EBRD Head of Tajikistan, Ayten Rustamova expressed happiness at the launch of Tajikistan's Women in Business programme, the first project of its type in the country, and expressed hope that it would increase lending to the country's real economy, providing additional business support for women, and aid to microfinance institutions and banks in the analysis of how they can further help women who wish to explore entrepreneurial options.
Up to now, there has been over $700 million dollars (608 million Euros) investments by the EBRD into many sectors of the Tajik economy, and more than 650 SMEs have been already provided with better access to business advice.