Working paper / University of Cologne, Development Research Center 1999,12
Bangladesh is one of the poorest countries in the world; and women in that country are among the poorest of the poor. In the late 1970s, a man performed a miracle there. With a few loans out of his own pocket in 1976, Professor Yunus proved to himself that even the most downtrodden are able to pull themselves out of dire poverty. By planting a vegetable garden, buying a cow or opening a small store, these women are able to make a profit, feed their family and repay their loan with interest. He then took his message to Rome where the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) had just been established, with the mandate of poverty alleviation in the poorest countries. With his enthusiasm, he convinced IFAD that a loan to the Grameen Bank, as he called his venture, would be a good investment and greatly help to reduce poverty in Bangladesh. IFAD?s loan turned out to be a door-opener for many other donors, including the World Bank. Today, some twenty years later, the Grameen Bank is one of the world?s most successful financial institutions banking with the poor. It provides standardized loans to some two million women, organized in small groups of women who mutually guarantee their loans and repay them in 54 weekly instalments.