Tusabber Muntaha, braving her physical disabilities, gained computer skills under the supervision of government Learning and Earning Development Projects of the Bangladesh Computer Council to shine in freelancing.
“Now I train others under the same project which upskilled me. I spend one to two hours a day on freelancing platforms — Microworkers and Fiverr. Overall, I earn Tk 14,000 to Tk 15,000 per month,” Muntaha added.
Freelancing, one of the most unbiased professions when it comes to the question of gender, age, and ethnicity, gives freedom to work from anywhere around the world. The profession is being a blessing for many educated women in Bangladesh.
The country, which accumulates 16 per cent making it the second-largest supplier of online labour in the world according to the Oxford Internet Institute, has been multiplying their female workforce in past few years. But industry insiders said it is still not thriving.
“Various surveys conducted by BASIS at different times show that the rate of participation of women in the IT sector is 12 to 13 per cent but the number of women comes down to 2 to 3 per cent when it comes to the question of freelancing,” said Syed Almas Kabir, President at Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services.
According to the ICT Division, in Bangladesh there are 650,000 freelancers, of whom 500,000 are actively working.
Trade magazine Forbes says Bangladesh is among the top 10 countries in terms of income from this workforce and the growth is 26 per cent. Outsourcing has a market of one trillion US dollar a year in the world. Although Bangladeshi freelancers earn around $1 billion (Tk 8500crore), but the prospect of growth of the market to $5 billion is bright.
The working area of freelancers varies from country to country. Bangladeshi freelancers stay at the forefront of sales and marketing services though popular fields in freelancing include project management, multimedia production, programming, account, translation, content writing.
A study by GitHub found that females are more likely to adopt programming codes than males in open-source projects. Therefore, the chances of women in an IT career are no less bright than men.
Back in 2012 when Tanjina Akter Moon lost her merchandising job from a buying house, she was confused about what to do as she has to bear the responsibilities of her newborn baby.
“I was at a loss,” said Moon.
Inspired by her father, who has a 30-year experience in the graphics designing, she decided to toe the line of him.
“With my communication and client handling experience from my previous job; soon I started to develop in the field. With continuous upskilling courses and from both government and private organisations I kicked off developing website,” Moon added.
Till now Moon has built and developed 160 e-commerce websites.
“Mostly on ‘Upwork’, I invest 8 to 10 hours a day along with two other associates with me. My monthly income varies Tk 80,000 to Tk 1, 20,000,” she claimed.
For Manisha Saha, a Dhaka University BA final year student who works as an academic content writer for UK-based colleges and universities, said it depends more on developing skills and diversifying knowledge. She finds it blissful as she earns Tk 2000 per Tk 3000-word article and she spends two days for each write-up beside her regular studies and chores.
“It helps me to prepare myself for various competitive examinations apart from earning some money. I believe the work is grooming me up to become a sound future professional. On top of all, I can work from home without any hazard of going out,” Saha added.
Business insiders mooted improving some obstacles including logistic challenges, insecure payment method, pricey and slow bandwidth and poor internet service.
Foreign employers may lose confidence in the Bangladeshi market if they find unskilled workers delivering unsatisfactory works, they apprehended.
Junaid Ahmed Palak, State Minister for ICT Division, said now the subject of information and communication technology has been made compulsory from sixth to twelfth grade and sooner it’ll be started from primary level to make youngsters more up to date with IT.
“To encourage girls in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM), we have started organising dedicated programming competitions for them. Besides, with the current 6,000 Sheikh Russel Digital Computer Labs across the country another 35,000 will be set up by 2025, which will, directly and indirectly, encourage girls in IT,” Palak added.
Allocating 30 per cent for women entrepreneurs Palak said this year, the government will give Tk 100 crore to 50 startups under the project 'Hundred Years of Hope'.
“More than 50,000 IT freelancers have been prepared through the LEDP initiated by the ICT division. We started the pilot project ‘She Power’ in 21 districts where our goal was to create women IT service providers, e-commerce entrepreneurs, call centre agents and freelancers. In just a few years, 10,500 women entrepreneurs have been prepared there. Together with the United Nations, we are launching a project called Women ICT Frontier Initiative,” Palak further said.