Development Aims and Impacts. The Small and Medium-Sized Enterprise Development Project supported the development and expansion of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Bangladesh from 2009 to 2013. In specific pilot districts, the number of women-owned SMEs increased by over 10%. The training of women SME owners in business development, accounting, loan application rules and processes, and in the regulations governing businesses facilitated their improved access to institutional finance. The formation of advocacy groups and membership in different associations enhanced the confidence of women SME owners and their ability to lobby for policy changes. Dialogue and relation building between participating financial institutions and women’s SME associations helped foster mutual understanding and cooperation, leading to better outcomes for women-owned SMEs. Participating financial institution policies and products require further adaptation to meet the needs and circumstances of women- owned SMEs.
ADB Processes and Management. Overall, factors that contributed to the project’s gender equality results were (i) inclusion of a technical assistance (TA) element that specifically focused on women entrepreneurs; (ii) single-source selection of the Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BWCCI) as the implementing agency for the TA; (iii) proactive role of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in managing the project; and (iv) rapport established between the Ministry of Finance, the Bangladesh Bank, ADB, and the BWCCI. The project also led to unexpected positive results, especially in the area of policy changes favoring women-owned SMEs. The project epitomizes a successful public–private partnership in TA through the joint and complementary working relationship among the Ministry of Finance, the Bangladesh Bank, and the BWCCI.