Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Grameen Bank Saves Women

Taslima Begum (r), a Board member of the Grameen Bank and a former borrower herself, stands next to Muhammad Yunus, 2006 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. (Source: Norwegian Nobel Institute)

Democracy Now is this week broadcasting parts of the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, including the speech made by winner Muhammad Yunus. There are some elements to this man's achievement which are remarkable and worthy of reiteration:

-Grameen means "village" in Bengali -- this is the bank for villagers and other very poor people in Bangladesh

-Yunus himself is the founder of the hugely beneficial micro-credit system of banking and loans which has been duplicated, in his own words, "in almost every country in the world"

-Grameen Bank have over 7 million"borrowers-cum-owners" of which 97% are women in over 73,000 villages in Bangladesh!

-Yunus presented shocking details of the world's income distribution:

  • 94% of the world's income goes to 40% of the population

  • 60% of people live on only 6% of the world's income

  • half of the world population lives on only $2 a day

  • over 1 billion people live on less than $1 a day

-Just to put things into perspective and place shame on the US and its largely ignorant taxpayers: "Till now over $ 530 billion has been spent on the war in Iraq by the USA alone."

-"Since [Grameen Bank] introduced them in 1984, housing loans have been used to construct 640,000 houses. The legal ownership of these houses belongs to the women themselves. We focused on women because we found giving loans to women always brought more benefits to the family."

-Helping the poor doesn't make you poor, too: "In a cumulative way the bank has given out loans totaling about US $6 billion. The repayment rate is 99%. Grameen Bank routinely makes profit."

-58% of Grameen Bank's borrowers "have crossed the poverty line."

-There are 85,000 beggars who are borrowers, "About 5,000 of them have already stopped begging completely. Typical loan to a beggar is $12."

-Yunus has proposed a new business model called a "social business" which will "produce desired social results cost-effectively and efficiently" while also making a profit. This basically is a business model for socially-conscious young people throughout the world, but especially young people who are wealthy or come from "rich countries" who want to make a difference in the world but also want to have a career and good income of their own. For more information on this, read the "Free Market Economy" and "Grameen's Social Business" segments of Yunus's speech and check out the website for the Grameen Foundation.