I have lived in one of the most incredible cities in the world my entire life. My country is not ravaged by war, poverty, disease or natural disaster. My parents were in the position to give me a safe, comfortable home and my neighbourhood has good schools. Now, I’m a third of the way through my degree and looking at doing a post-graduate. I’m very aware of how lucky I am.
However, millions of women around the world have to struggle to even provide the most basic of things for their families. After a devastating famine in Bangladesh in 1974, Muhammad Yunus, an economist, decided that something had to be done to give the poor a chance to lift themselves up out of poverty themselves. He did this by making small loans available to small groups of people to start their own businesses.
This was a revolutionary step as it gave the poor a real chance to make a success of their ideas when usually, they would never be approved for a loan because of their financial situation.
From his original idea, The Grameen Bank came into existence and has proved to be enormously successful. Not only this is good for the economy of every area that the bank - and other similar micro-credit organisations - operate in, it also gives women a chance to earn their own living. 96% of the loans go to women, giving them real economic oppurtunity and independence.
Take a look at some of the success stories from women around the world.
Nurjahan is a borrower of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. Her name means "the light of the world." Abandoned by her parents at three months of age and raised by a neighbor, Nurjahan was married at twelve only to be abandoned by her husband a year later, while three months pregnant. She returned to the family who had raised her, cooking for them while raising her son.
Before joining Grameen, Nurjahan had never earned more than $37.50 in a year and owned no land. After five years as a borrower with the Grameen Bank, her annual income is $250 (just above the national average) and she owns two goats, one pregnant cow, ten hens, and two-thirds of an acre of land. The land cost $1,000, more than four times the average annual income. Seasonally, she employs two farm-hands to assist with her rice crop. In a country where only 46 percent of the children reach grade five, Nurjahan's son is now in 8th grade.
La Maman Mole Motuke lived in a wrecked car in a suburb of Kinshasa, Zaire with her four children. If she could find something to eat, she would feed two of her children; the next time she found something to eat, her other two children would eat.
When organizers from the Association interviewed her, she said that she knew how to make chikwangue (maniac paste), and she only needed a few dollars to start production. After six months of training in marketing and production techniques, Maman Motuke got her first loan of US$100, and bought production materials.
Today, Maman Motuke and her family no longer live in a broken down car; they rent a house with two bedrooms and a living room. Her four children go to school on a regular basis; they eat regularly and dress well. She currently is saving to buy some land in a suburb farther outside of the city and hopes to build a house.
It seems that micro-credit iniatives really do make an impact and allow women to support themselves and their family. As Wikipedia points out:
More than half of Grameen borrowers in Bangladesh have all children of school age in school, all household members eating three meals a day, a sanitary toilet, a rainproof house, clean drinking water and the ability to repay a 300 taka-a-week (US$8) loan, which has brought them above the poverty level.
These small loans are making such a huge difference to people's lives, especially the lives of women. Its sustainable and it gives people pride in themselves by not forcing them to rely on charity. Maybe our governments should look at this way of lifting people out of poverty.