Grameen Foundation Insights

You are here

At Grameen Foundation, our goal is to spur innovation in the global movement to eliminate extreme poverty. Part of that work is to develop better solutions and share them with people like you.

On GF Insights, we share lessons learned from our leaders in the field, news about efforts to expand access to financial and information services for the poor, and how poverty-focused organizations are using data to improve the way they work.

Latest Posts

08/12/2010 by

GF supporter and actress Yeardley Smith (voice of “Lisa Simpson” on the popular TV show The Simpsons) and President and CEO Alex Counts traveled to Bangladesh in late July 2010. They visited Grameen Bank and some of the other enterprises Professor Yunus has launched to accelerate poverty reduction.  This is Alex’s third blog post chronicling their visit.

Our third day in Bangladesh was a day of rest. On day four, the five of us headed to Gazipur, north of Dhaka.  Although Saturday is a bank holiday, it’s a working day for Grameen Shikkha, the arm of the Grameen family of companies that promotes education.

08/09/2010 by

GF supporter and actress Yeardley Smith (voice of “Lisa Simpson” on the popular TV show The Simpsons) and President and CEO Alex Counts traveled to Bangladesh in late July 2010. They visited Grameen Bank and some of the other enterprises Professor Yunus has launched to accelerate poverty reduction. This is Alex’s second blog post chronicling their visit.

At 8 am, we departed our Dhaka hotel in a van with a driver and a guide from Jannat’s international training team, heading to the Gorai Mirzapur branch, about fifty miles northeast of the capital. This, however, turned out to be something of a mistake as we hit rush hour traffic again. Somehow we managed to arrive for a borrowers (or center) meeting at 10:05 am, only five minutes late. We were joined by Andy Pleatman, a Hong Kong-based financial supporter of Grameen Foundation, and his daughter Kim. Over the next forty minutes, we had a spirited discussion with 60 Grameen members that pushed my translation skills to the limits and beyond.

[caption id="attachment_866" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Alex speaking and translating at Gorai Mirzapur branch office"][/caption]

One woman shared how she had taken a Tk. 1,000 (about $15) loan 22 years ago and now was able to borrow and productively invest 30 times that amount in raising livestock and shopkeeping. Another proudly spoke about the three cows she now owned free and clear after taking a loan to buy them. Several mentioned that they’d built houses nearby to rent out to laborers who migrated to the area for work in new factories nearby. When we asked the newest borrowers (i.e., less than three years in Grameen) to stand up, their lack of self-confidence in addressing us starkly contrasted with those who had been borrowing longer. Also striking was how few children all of the women had—all the ones we asked had one or two.

[caption id="attachment_865" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Rokeya and her Daughter"][/caption]

After the meeting, our group went to visit a few borrowers’ homes. One borrower, Rokeya Begum, had been widowed soon after her third child was born. With Grameen loans, she grew several businesses (many based on raising livestock) and then built a house where seven laborers now live and pay her rent. She’d sent her son to Singapore to work. He sent back earnings for a while, but he was killed in a tragic accident soon after he’d returned to Bangladesh. We met his widow as we left and expressed our condolences, hoping that she had the same fighting spirit as Rokeya.

08/05/2010 by

GF supporter and actress Yeardley Smith (voice of “Lisa Simpson” on the popular TV show The Simpsons) and President and CEO Alex Counts traveled to Bangladesh in late July 2010. They visited Grameen Bank and some of the other enterprises Professor Yunus has launched to accelerate poverty reduction. This is Alex’s first blog post chronicling their visit.

Yeardley’s and my flight arrived at Dhaka’s International airport one hour late, after which we had the pleasure of navigating Dhaka’s ever-worsening traffic to get to our hotel. During lunch, I prepared her for the days to come, explaining that this trip would be different from the time we spent in May 2009 witnessing microfinance in Haiti. We then started for the Grameen Complex in Mirpur—traffic stretched a usually short trip to 45 minutes.

To get a sense of Grameen’s 30-year history, we met with three individuals who were with Professor Yunus during the organization’s nascent years in the mid-1970s.

In her new role as General Manager, Jannat Quanine oversees all of Grameen Bank’s international programs. She receives and provides exposure and training to a delegation of foreigners—from senior government officials to curious students—who want to learn about Grameen. As we sat with her, she received a call about two ministers from India who wanted to visit the following week. (I suspected that in the days ahead, she’d have her hands full preparing for that one visit.)

Jannat explained to Yeardley what it was like during the early years with Professor Yunus—before the worldwide acclaim for his achievements in reducing poverty, which spawned a global financial services industry for poor women. She also explained the itinerary for our six days in Bangladesh—her team had worked out every detail.

After meeting with Jannat, we visited Nurjahan Begum, Grameen’s Deputy Managing Director and Grameen Foundation Board member. She told us about Grameen Bank’s recent growth and talked about its sister organization, Grameen Shikkha. (Shikkha means “education” in Bengali.) Nurjahan is the organization’s nonsalaried CEO. She’s barely five feet tall, but pound for pound, she’s the most potent force for poverty reduction and women’s empowerment I’ve ever met!

07/22/2010 by
Emily Ferris is a Marketing and Communications Intern for Grameen Foundation based in our Washington, DC office.

I remember reading about the success of Grameen Bank before my Global Issues, Local Solutions class one day and thinking to myself, “What an incredible idea!” Microfinance is such a straightforward model with such a powerful impact – who wouldn’t be impressed? So when I set out on my internship search for summer 2010, Grameen Foundation was the first place I looked.

07/21/2010 by

Veteran marketing executive Madelyn Hammond, President of Madelyn Hammond & Associates, and Emily Lynch, West Coast Coordinator for shoe designer Christian Louboutin, recently accompanied GF staff on a site visit to Peru to witness the impact of microfinance.  Once acquaintances, and now lifelong friends, both are dedicated supporters of the Grameen Foundation.

Six people who didn’t really know each other went to the Amazon to see Grameen Foundation and their local partners in action.  Four days later we were friends for life and would never look at the world the same way again. This special expedition to Pucallpa, Peru was a combination of divine intervention and supreme coincidence.

[caption id="attachment_802" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Madelyn (left) and Emily in Peru."][/caption]Almost a year ago, the world famous shoe designer, Christian Louboutin, was given a list of ten charities for him to review and then select one to really get involved with. Without knowing a lot about Grameen, the idea of microfinance appealed to him and that these loans were primarily made to women made it even more perfect.  Emily Lynch, who is the West Coast Coordinator for Christian Louboutin, and responsible for overseeing their Charity associations in the U.S., was charged with spearheading the project.  She knew to really get Christian involved would require first-hand knowledge of how a “charitable gift becomes a loan” and actually meet the “borrowers”.

I’m a marketing executive and was already somewhat familiar with Grameen through Yeardley Smith, (the voice of Lisa Simpson), who was a former client. Yeardley’s two trips to Haiti really inspired and made me want to experience a Grameen trip on my own.

We were expertly guided (and educated!) through various towns in Peru by several Grameen and Prisma (their local microfinance partner) associates. Alberto Solano (Grameen’s Regional CEO), Mary Irvine (Grameen’s Regional Director of Development), Diego Fernandez Concha (Director, Prisma), and Lori Ospina (Grameen’s Program Assistant).

Here is our Story: Ten Things Emily and Mad Learned on our Trip to the Amazon

The Borrowers:

1.       …are resourceful. There is a misconception that poor means lazy. What poor is…is a lack of opportunity. The women we met all have 4 or 5 jobs depending on weather, time of year, crops or children.

2.       …are resilient.  The women had an attitude of “whatever needs to be done will be done”. We saw an incredible work ethic coupled with practicality and strong survival undertones.

3.       …just like other women. The mothers want the same things all mothers want—healthy, educated, successful children. We saw women who were “Avon saleswomen” [the equivalent of?]and took pride in their appearance although they were dirt poor. All the women had the same hopes and dreams we all share.

Pages

© 2014 Grameen Foundation

Charity Navigator BBB Rating

site design and development by Firefly Partners