The Grameen Bank has enabled millions of women to lift themselves out of poverty by giving them loans to buy animals, or equipment to start earning money. The bank’s pioneering model has been emulated worldwide, demonstrating the power of microfinance to lift women and their families out of extreme poverty. Last year, however, Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government supported the removal of Grameen’s Nobel Prize-winning founder Muhammad Yunus from his post as managing director. The decision has been widely criticised by many governments and NGOs working in Bangladesh and elsewhere, who see the move as a deliberate attempt to turn the bank into a compliant arm of Hasina’s administration.
Worse, in recent months Hasina’s government has tried to seize control of the bank from the 5.5 million small-time shareholders, almost all of them women, who collectively own more than 95 per cent of the bank. She has also passed a law, previously discussed in the RESULTS blog, which will allow the government to bypass the elected board and handpick the Bank’s next managing director. Many fear that Hasina and her government will use their newly-found power to manipulate the bank’s members, in order to gather their votes in the country’s forthcoming election. This takeover could break the bank, and destroy the lives of millions of Bangladeshi women and their families.
So far 511,000 people have signed a petition to support Grameen Bank. For more information and to support the petition see here.