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Beyond the Book: Background information when reading Banker to the Poor

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Banker to the Poor

Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty

by Muhammad Yunus

Banker to the Poor by Muhammad Yunus X
Banker to the Poor by Muhammad Yunus
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  • First Published:
    Jun 1999, 258 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2003, 288 pages

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Bangladesh: In 1947 the Partition of India caused the formation of East and West Pakistan (separated by a distance of about 1,000 miles).  Although the two regions shared a common religion (Islam) large ethnic and linguistic differences existed which in 1971, following the Bangladesh Liberation War, led to the formation of Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan) as a country separate from both India and Pakistan.  It is the third largest Muslim-majority nation, and one of the most densely populated countries in the world; about 147 million people live in an area about the size of Iowa, with about a third of the land prone to flooding each year.  The infant mortality rate is 61 out of every 1,000 live births, the literacy rate is 43% and the gross domestic product equivalent to USA $2,100 per capita.

From the Grameen Bank website: Grameencredit is based on the premise that the poor have skills which remain unutilised or under-utilised. It is definitely not the lack of skills which make poor people poor. Grameen believes that the poverty is not created by the poor, it is created by the institutions and policies which surround them. In order to eliminate poverty all we need to do is to make appropriate changes in the institutions and policies, and/or create new ones. Grameen believes that charity is not an answer to poverty. It only helps poverty to continue. It creates dependency and takes away individual's initiative to break through the wall of poverty. Unleashing of energy and creativity in each human being is the answer to poverty.

Did you know?

  • Grameen means "rural" or "village" in the Bangla language.
  • As of May, 2006 Grameen Bank had 6.67 million borrowers, 97 percent of whom are women; more than 18,000 staff and 2,247 branches which provide services in 72,096 villages, covering more than 86 percent of the total villages in Bangladesh.
  • Grameen Bank is owned by the rural poor whom it serves. Borrowers of the Bank own more than 90% of its shares, the remainder is owned by the Bangladesh government.
  • Grameen Bank borrowers commit to 16 decisions, one of which is "We shall not take any dowry at our sons' weddings, neither shall we give any dowry at our daughters' weddings. We shall keep our centre free from the curse of dowry. We shall not practice child marriage."  All 16 decisions.
  • Grameen Bank has now grown into more than two dozens ventures including Grameen Telecom, which has distributed loans to about 139,000 poor women in rural areas with no phone service, who then bought phones and set up call centers in their homes where the other villagers can come and pay a small fee for using the phone; and the Grameen Foundation, dedicated to replicating the Grameen Bank into other areas of the world.

This article relates to Banker to the Poor. It first ran in the November 12, 2006 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

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