Women make up 36 percent of the workforce in Bangladesh -- a high percentage for South Asia -- but female workers there continue to face obstacles, from balancing work and family to access to financing. These challenges usually stem from a lack of training, professional resources and self-confidence.

In partnership with Concern Universal, Coca-Cola has recently launched Women Business Centers in Bangladesh as part of its global 5by20 initiative to enable the economic empowerment of 5 million women entrepreneurs by 2020.

These facilities, run by women, were developed to address common barriers women entrepreneurs face by providing access to business skills training, market information, agriculture training, mobile banking assistance, healthcare counseling, mentoring and networking opportunities. 

The first phase started with 10 centers in Jamalpur and saw success driven by women entrepreneurs, who worked as change agents to empower rural women. They reached out to extended groups of women in the same and neighboring villages and trained them on income-generating skills. Additionally, they provided many of the services these women required apart from being instrumental in the establishment of active women groups. More than 10,000 women beneficiaries were trained on agricultural production, marketing services, mobile and computer services and basic healthcare in 2015. 

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Building on the initial success, a second phase is being extended to the villages of Khulna and Bagerhat, benefiting an additional 10,000 women. 

The new centers will include an e-Commerce based, one-stop business service system for rural women to increase agricultural production and marketing.  

Each facility will provide an opportunity to five new women entrepreneurs who have never been in business before. These entrepreneurs will receive technical services and training from private and public sector organizations and will eventually share the same training with 1,0000 neighboring female producers. 

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These entrepreneurs will be able to purchase agricultural products from female producers and sell to traders and private companies, which will reduce transaction costs and ensures fair prices. The one-stop business service centers will provide computer, mobile phones, photocopying, scanning and more, which will strengthen business and social communication of rural women. The centers also will provides basic health services to women through linkages with professional doctors.