Pioneering Microloan Bank under Assault in Bangladesh

I first learned about the Grameen Bank and its extraordinary work in spreading the concept of microloans for women in impoverished countries when I was in San Francisco in the late 90s and worked on publicity for the international organization CARE.  That work, in partnership with entrepreneur Babette McDougal of Sausalito Associates, gave me the opportunity to meet one of the women involved in microloan programs in South America and she was truly inspiring.  I was already directly experiencing the surge in entrepreneurism among women in this country, which gained momentum in the heady days of the dotcom boom.  Therefore, I was appalled this week to read that the Grameen Bank was under attack in its home country of Bangladesh.

According to an opinion article in The New York Times written by David Bornstein, founder of dowser.org, a media site that reports on social innovation, the cabinet of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Sazed is out to brazenly seize control of the institution that serves 8.4 million poor villagers across Bangladesh.  Last year the government forcibly removed the bank’s founder, Muhammad Yunus.  As Bornstein states, “It is a powerful blow against an institution”

Why does this news upset me?  When I worked with him, the President of CARE personally talked about the importance of women entrepreneurs in lifting impoverished villages around the world out of poverty.  And that’s why Yunus switched from banking primarily with men to women.  A woman, he said, went to greater lengths to improve her children’s nutrition and health and educate her daughters.

I had learned early in my own career that I was the most passionate when working either for small, entrepreneurial,  women-owned PR firms or on my own as a freelance writer and later as a partner with my late husband in our own communications consultancy, Robinson Andrew Media.  Yet I remember how hard it was to get credit as a single woman in the 70s in the early days of feminism.  I worry that regimes around the world would like to roll back the clock on women’s rights – and this is just the latest alarm.  I recommend reading “An Attack on Grameen Bank, and the Cause of Women” at http://nyti.ms/Q2YKsX.

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