Viewpoint: The Markets Are Collapsing: Will Microfinance Save Us Again?
By Durreen Shahnaz
Some 30 years ago, I left the money, glamour and intensity of Morgan Stanley and Wall Street to go back to the land of my birth, Bangladesh. I went to work for a bank for underserved women which provided very small loans that allowed them to start businesses. The work at Grameen Bank was equally intense in its own way – walking miles from village to village to collect the weekly loan payments; negotiating with the husbands when they would stop the women from making loan payments; and spending hours teaching the women to sign their name in the sand with a stick (there was very little scrap paper to spare). When they mastered writing their name, they could, for the first time, sign for their loan with newfound dignity—instead of having to use a thumb print. This was a financial transaction—except that it was happening on sand and paper instead of on computers and Bloomberg terminals.
While, at the outset, it seemed like my lives in New York and Bangladesh were worlds apart, the common thread was that I was witnessing the power of finance in both the places. In New York, I saw the financial markets controlled by educated, affluent men; and in Bangladesh, I witnessed the growth of a new type of financial market created and controlled by poor, uneducated women. These women not only went on to inspire millions of other women across the world to create small businesses themselves through Microfinance Institutions (MFIs), but they also ensured that the people who believed in them received healthy financial returns.
Photo courtesy of Mags’ pics for everyone.
Source: IIX (link opens in a new window)
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