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They said that alongside the government, parents too needed to change their mindset. The objective of the dialogue was to expand the skilled workforce by means of training in retail business. It also aimed at increasing the inclusion of women and disabled persons in this profession.

Brac's SDP in-charge Tasmia Tabassum Rahman moderated the roundtable. The chief guest at the event was president of the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI), Nihad Kabir. She said, a mentality had grown among higher educated persons to simply remain dependent on their parents if they didn't get government jobs.

Managing director of Aarong Tamara Abed said women salespersons have a good rapport with the customers. If women's participation in the sector is to be increased, safety in the workplace must certainly be increased too

She pointed out that 6 million (60 lakh) persons had got employment in the retail business sector and there was scope to expand this much further. There was inadequate campaigning in this regard. The government needed to take strong measures to this end.

Managing director of Apex Footwear Limited Syed Nasim Manzur said 12 per cent of those with higher education in the country were unemployed. Yet these persons could join the retail business sector if they wanted. However, they fail to do so due to family pressure. Their parents want them to either take the BCS (Bangladesh Civil Service) exam or join a bank.

He said retail business offers scope for employment as well as foreign investment. Parents need to change their mindsets in this regard.

Managing director of Aarong Tamara Abed said women salespersons have a good rapport with the customers. If women's participation in the sector is to be increased, safety in the workplace must certainly be increased too. She said Aarong arrange for transports for its women workers at night.

She further said in order to bring women to the retail sector, the employers must create a healthy environment in the workplace and have a policy regarding sexual harassment.

It is not true that women can't work as hard as men. The women workers in the country's garment sector have proven that. We want more women workers in the retail sector too.
Shaheen Khan, chief executive officer of Meena Bazar

Sohel Tanvir Khan, business director of chain shop Shwapno, said, "We target to employ 10 per cent women in our organisation, but we do not get so many. Those who are working with us, though, are doing well."

Brac's SDP in-charge Tasmia Tabassum Rahman said, so far over 6 million (60 lakh) persons have been employed in the retail business sector in Bangladesh. There is significant prospect for employment opportunities for disadvantaged youth, particularly for women, in this sector.

She said men dominate the retail industry at present. Only 8 per cent women were working in this sector. Why should women just stay stuck to sewing machines? University graduates and those with higher education must come to this sector too.

Chief executive officer of Unimart Murtaza Zaman said women face all sorts of challenges in retail business. When women leave their workplaces late, it is hard to avail transport after 10:00pm. Many landlords don't want to rent places out to them. The social system isn't in place as yet. It is not enough just to have training, work must be done on the ecosystem too.

Chief executive officer of Meena Bazar, Shaheen Khan, said, "It is not true that women can't work as hard as men. The women workers in the country's garment sector have proven that. We want more women workers in the retail sector too."

Brac SDP created the country's first retail sales training module with the support of Bangladesh Technical Education Board

MM Ferdous, executive director of Best Electronics, said, "We want women workers in our organisation, but there is need for certain basic knowledge about electronic products. It is hard to get women in this sector."

He further said, "Everyone wants to work in Dhaka, with many wanting to work at the head office. There is less interest in working at the sales centres. This mindset needs to be changed."

Aziza Ahmed, head of operations at Bangladesh Business and Disability Network, said, "Our work is to link the job applicants with the job providers. It is seen that even if they get job guarantee, there is a lack in facilities to commute and also in housing. The building code which includes provisions for the disabled, is not followed. That is why it is not possible for them to work at many jobs."

Managing director of Amana Group Masudul Haque said there was a time when many unskilled workers came to the retail business. Now, due to Brac training, skilled workers are available.

It was further said at the meeting that, keeping the prospects of the retail sector in mind, from 2020 Brac launched the Progressing the Retail Sector by Improving Decent Employment (PRIDE). The objective of this initiative is to create a model for sustainable livelihood for the low income urban youth through partnership between the government and the retail sector.

Under this project, Brac SDP created the country's first retail sales training module with the support of Bangladesh Technical Education Board. Participants at present are provided training by means of this module.

Also present at the dialogue were Gadget and Gear's managing director Nure Alam Shimu, Brac SDP project's head of operations Joydeep Sinha Roy, and SDP programme manager Mohammad Sadique Hasan.

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