RESULTS Stands with Female Senators in Support of Grameen Bank

June 28, 2012 — Yesterday, all 17 female members of the United States Senate released a letter to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh expressing their strong support for preserving the autonomy of the Grameen Bank, which 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.

Under pressure from the Prime Minister, Grameen Bank’s founder and former managing director, Nobel Prize winner Professor Muhammad Yunus, was forced out of his position in May 2011. The government has now appointed a commission to look into the operations of Grameen  Bank and make recommendations as to its future leadership. This commission is widely seen as a way for the government to take control of the Grameen Bank from its women borrower-owners. The senators are urging the Bangladesh Prime Minister to allow the current Board of Directors to retain their authority, and independently manage the process for selecting a new managing director.

[Signers of the letter include: Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kay Hagan (D-NC), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).]

Joanne Carter, Executive Director of RESULTS and RESULTS Educational Fund, issued the following statement in response:

“I commend the 17 female senators, led by Senator Barbara Boxer, for their letter to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh, urging her to protect the independence of Grameen Bank from further government intervention. Their letter is a powerful signal of urgent concern and of solidarity with the women borrowers and owners of Grameen Bank. Grameen Bank has long been a leader not only in microfinance and poverty-reduction efforts, but also in its work empowering poor, rural women of Bangladesh. It has been a much-emulated model for the rest of the world. Women make up the vast majority of Grameen Bank’s borrowers, own 97 percent of the equity in the bank, and are represented by nine of the 13 seats on the Board of Directors. Any additional interference by the government in the authority of Grameen’s Board of Directors would be an enormous setback to the human and legal rights of these women. Such action would send a very dangerous signal about threats to the autonomy of all of civil society in Bangladesh.

With less than two months until the Bangladesh government-appointed commission releases its recommendations for the future of the Grameen Bank, it is essential that the U.S., along with other governments that are major donors and allies to Bangladesh, use all available diplomatic tools to urge Prime Minister Hasina to protect the independence of the Bank and its borrowers. During her visit to Bangladesh just last month, Secretary Clinton strongly and publicly spoke in support of Professor Yunus and Grameen Bank.

We strongly support Secretary Clinton, the Administration and members of Congress to continue and accelerate these critical efforts to protect the autonomy of Grameen Bank so it can continue to successfully empower millions of current and future women, their families and their communities in their move out of poverty to prosperity.”

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