Rokia Afzal Rahman started her career in a commercial bank in 1962 when very few women had entered banks universally. She became the first woman bank manager of the country in 1964. She later became a sponsor Director in Midas Financing Limited, Director in Reliance Insurance Ltd. Mrs. Rahman served as a Director in the Central Bank of Bangladesh as a member of the board for three years.
In I980 Ms. Rahman ventured into her own agro based industry. RR Cold Storage Limited dealing with potatoes imports exports and storage of seed and table potatoes. She expanded her business manifold. Subsequently she bought another agro industry. As Chair and CEO of two agro industries Ms Rahman works with 15000 small farmers who need support during harvesting season. She facilitates loans to farmers by standing as guarantor to a commercial bank taking loans for them and retailing the loan to them. Her business has given her widespread appreciation. She has received several awards from Banks and chambers.
Mrs. Rahman has diversified her business And is now in media, insurance, real estate and power sector.
Rokia is the chairperson of Mediaworld Limited the owning company of The Daily Star, director shareholder in Mediastar, And shareholder director in ABC Radio.
Mrs. Rahman has developed and sold many industrial plots and some housing plots in the real estate business.
Mrs. Rahman was invited to the board of Midas and later Midas Financing Ltd, organisations which support enterprise and industrial development. Through Midas Mrs. Rahman has initiated several innovative programs for the growth of entrepreneurship development in Bangladesh.
- Women entrepreneurs can borrow upto taka one million as collateral free loan.
- Marketing outlets in the name. And style of Mini Marts were developed and opened.
- Working capital loans were introduced during festival season as Festival Loan to facilitate women doing business in apparel and food.
- Women 2 women support program, designed to develop potential women entrepreneurs. In this program a new entrepreneur is matched with an existing women entrepreneur for one year. During this period the new entrepreneur receives all kinds of support in designing, quality control and marketing. After one years support program she is facilitated to borrow on her own.
Women doing business had to share a percentage of their profits with middlemen, to eliminate the role of the middleman Mini Marts were developed first in 1992. Today the Mini Marts are a huge success and bring big profits for its Sponsors. Marketing outlets owned and managed by a group of business women to sell diversified items was set up and named Mini Mart. The success of the Mini Mart produced replication of the same in other places. Good Governance through Committees and the overall responsibility of Mini Mart is shared by two capable Co Chairpersons. For the first five years, Mrs. Rokia Rahman is the Chairperson in all the Mini Marts.
The Mini Marts were not only designed by Mrs. Rahman, she also personally mentored and guided it through the years.
Development of Womens Associations
In 1994 the first Women Entrepreneurs Association in Bangladesh was formed with 150 members and Rokia Afzal Rahman as founder President WEA. In 1996 Mrs. Rahman formed Women In Small Enterprises to further upgrade and promote women into small enterprises and industries.
WEA and WISE worked in all areas of Bangladesh to bring about a change in the lives of women and bring empowerment through entrepreneurship development. WISE has carried out surveys finding constraints that women entrepreneurs face and also potential areas of investment. Wise in collaboration with the ministry of Planning, Government of Bangladesh held several workshops.
In august 2006 Bangladesh Federation of Women Entrepreneurs' BFWE was launched. The member associations of the federation are based in different secondary cities. The federation works with 5 million women, most of the women are in secondary towns and rural areas of Bangladesh.
They receive training on a regular basis, supported by donors' like SEDF. The products are sold through Mini Marts. Mrs. Rokia Afzal Rahman is the founder president of BFWE.
Mrs. Rahmans commitment to development brings her on the boards of the following NGO's:
- Manusher Jonno Foundation
- Bangladesh Freedom Foundation
- NGO foundation
Mrs. Rahman is the Chairperson of Presidency University foundation and Chair, Bangladesh Board of Advisers, Asian University for Women.
Mrs. Rokia Afzal Rahman is a former Adviser (minister) to the Government of Bangladesh in charge of the ministry of Women and Children, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Ministry of Social Welfare and Ministry of Culture.
- Leading women entrepreneurs of the world. Monte Carlo 1999.
- Best Business person, Bangladesh Shilpa Bank
- Prime customer, Janata Bank
- Business person of the Year-2003 American Chamber.
- Priyadarshani award, India.
- Deshbondhu award for womens Empowerment
- Womens development, Mercantile Bank.