Grameen Bank Under Threat – And How You Can Help

August 10, 2012
by John Fawcett, Legislative Director

Last week the Government of Bangladesh escalated its efforts to take control of the Grameen Bank, the Nobel Prize winning microfinance institution founded by Professor Muhammad Yunus. We are dismayed by this latest development, which further undermines the independence and vitality of one of the most innovative anti-poverty institutions in the world.

The Bangladesh cabinet approved changes to the Grameen Bank Ordinance (the 1983 law that created Grameen Bank) that would gut the power of Grameen Bank’s Board of Directors and transfer authority to the government-appointed chairman to select the next managing director of the Bank. Grameen Bank provides credit and other critical services to more than 8.3 million of the poorest women in Bangladesh, and is 97 percent owned by these women borrowers. The borrowers comprise nine of the 12 seats on the Board of Directors. 

In a statement, RESULTS Executive Director Joanne Carter called the move “a scandalous attack on women’s rights.”

The State Department voiced its concern, calling on the Government of Bangladesh to respect the integrity, effectiveness, and independence of Grameen Bank.

In a separate statement, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said:

“I am deeply disappointed in the Bangladeshi government’s efforts to exert control over Grameen Bank. This move threatens the ability of millions of Bangladeshi women to find a path out of poverty. Critical decisions regarding the Grameen Bank’s leadership should be left to the Board of Directors so that the bank can continue its vital work helping Bangladeshis start businesses and provide for their families.”

Last month Senator Boxer led a letter signed by all 17 female members of the Senate urging the Prime Minister of Bangladesh to stop interfering with the independence of Grameen.

How can RESULTS members support Grameen Bank?

1. Sign the Petition. Friends of Grameen Bank have organized a petition to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina urging her not to undermine the independence of Grameen.  You can show your support by adding your voice to this global petition.

2. Write a letter to the editor. Many people in our communities have heard about the pioneering work of Grameen Bank, but few know it’s under threat.  Write a letter to the editor of your local paper in support of Grameen Bank – you can find contact information for your local papers here.  And check out 3. Ask your member of Congress to make a statement. Senator Boxer made a strong statement in support of Grameen.  If your member of Congress has been supportive in the past (e.g. by cosponsoring the bill to award Professor Yunus the Congressional Gold Medal in the Senate), ask your representative to issue a brief statement in support of Grameen Bank.

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