Judy Mann's article in Washington Post l0/l4-Out of Poverty

Ruby Rohrlich (rohrlich@UNIX1.CIRC.GWU.EDU)
Sun, 30 Oct 1994 19:11:52 -0400

I am extremely impressed by this article, which deals with real solutions
for a great many real people. I'll quote from it: "Poveerty, argues
Muhammad Yumus, is not created by poor people, but by world economic and
social systems that deny them a fair shot. The way to beat poveerty is to
give poor people access to small amounts of credit so they can start a
business. An economist by training and a successful visionary by
profession, Yumus is the founder and head of the Grameen Bank of
Bangladesh, which is rapidly becoming the most famous micro-credit
institution in the world, thanks to Yumus's top publicist, President
Clinton. The bank, which is now l7 years old, does not require
collateral. Its loans average about $l00. It is owned by 2 million
members, 94 percent of whom are women. It operates in half of
Bangladesh's 68,000 villages. Its repayment rate is a phenomenal 98 percent.
"When we began we wanted to make sure that half of its borrowers were
women," says Yumus, because in Bangladesh husbands controlled the family
money, theyowned the land and they could easily divorce wives, leaving
them destitute. Groups of five women were formed in villages. The two
neediest were the first to get loans, then, if they repaid them on
schedule for the first five weeks, the next two neediest got loans, and if
they repaid promptly, the fifth person got her loan. It was in the
interest of the whole group for everyone to pay their loans promptly. The
group support eventually spilled over unto everything, affecting the
welfare of the women and their families, including reinforcement for good
nutritional practices and family planning. Today, Grameen bank members
have l6 principles they try to live up to, including getting rid of the
dowry system by not asking it for their sons or giving it for their daughters.
Ymus says the bank saw "a terrific difference between approaching
families through the women" and approaching them through the men. "Women
paid far more attention to the children, to the households, to the future.
Men try to enjoy itnow. Women are very efficient managers of scarce
resources, because when times are bad, the women are the ones who suffer
the most.
The bank has caused a sea change in family rules, with many women
becoming the breadwinners. The bank is now giving housing loans to
members with good repapyment records and proof the land belongs to thae
borrower. This means she has to persuade her husband to transfer hisland
to her. Aafter the house is built, the husband is living in his wife's
house, a change that Yumus says makes a man "think many times over" before
he divorces a wife, because he would have to leave.
Yumus was in Washington the week Judy wrote this article to
receive the l994 World Food Prize, which carries a $200,000 awarad donated
by Iowa businessman John Ruan, chairman of the World Food Prize
Foundation. He called the Graameen Bank's programs "the perfect model for
a world in search of food security." Yumus met Clinton when he was
governor of Arkasas and helped set up the Good Faith F und in Pine Bluff,
which is a model of how to take the lessons of the Grameen Bank and apply
them to relieve poverty here. Clinton found that loan candidates in
Arkansas felt they coculd get started with sums assmall as $375. The
largest sum was $l,500 The academicians have their ideas about the world
and the reality is so different" From rohrlich@unix1.circ.gwu.edu
Thought this would be a welcome relief from race and suicide. Would
appreciate comments, aad the spreading of this story.