Dr Abu Zafar Shahriar, in collaboration with American professor Dean Shepherd at the University of Notre Dame, is exploring how the role of microfinance – i.e. small loans – can help underprivileged women succeed in business.
But one of the factors holding back some women is domestic violence, Dr Shahriar has discovered.
The study centres on 583 women in Bangladesh, who were each given small, collateral-free loans in order to establish their own business venture. Each of the women were then contacted 12 to 15 months later to examine their progress.
More than a quarter (28 per cent) of the women reported domestic violence at the hands of their husband or partner. These 156 women were found to be 6 per cent less likely to have started a business compared with the other women who were not victims of domestic violence.
Additionally, the rate of business failure increases in line with the number of violent acts imposed by their partner.
“Entrepreneurial opportunities in low-income communities are limited to small-scale trading and vending activities, such as running small grocery stores, selling prepared foods, rearing livestock in the household farm and tailoring,” Dr Shahriar said.
“Being an entrepreneur requires a reasonably high sense of self-esteem. Individuals who believe in their capabilities are likely to evaluate new business opportunities favourably because they believe they have the ability to overcome setbacks and failures. They associate these challenges with rewards, such as profit, recognition and psychological well-being.”
The findings are likely to be just as relevant here in Australia, where domestic violence against women is an all-too-common occurrence.
According to White Ribbon Australia, one in three women has experienced physical and/or sexual violence at the hands of someone they know, and on average, one Australian woman is killed each week by their current or former partner.
The not-for-profit organisation, which aims to prevent domestic violence through education programs in schools and workplaces, also notes that violence against women is estimated to cost the Australian economy a staggering $21.7 billion each year, including through higher medical costs, legal proceedings and lost productivity.
Domestic violence is also a growing problem for employers, with the workplace often the only place a victim is separated from their abuser.