Thursday, August 19, 2010

Jobra Hathazari Branch, Grameen Bank

Today our WorldTeach group was privileged enough to be able to visit the village of Jobra, where Muhammad Yunus began his Peace Prize Winning project, Grameen Bank. My account of our visit is not meant to be all-encompassing but just a reflection and summary of interesting points. The Grameen Bank's website has a wealth of information that I would recommend checking out for more information.

Our day started with a briefing from Golam Mohammed, the Senior Principal Officer in Dhaka and our guide for the day. He discussed the types of borrowers, types of loans, and the loan process. Grameen Bank targets the landless and assetless individuals, 96% of its borrowers being female. Grameen targets women borrowers because they are most successful in caring for the family, ensuring the family's needs are continually met, and enrolling children in school, including higher education. There are 4 types of loans, loans for: business/income projects, housing, higher education, and individuals living in extreme poverty. To apply for a loan, the woman must provide her name, husband's name, and purpose of the loan. There are no legal documents to sign and the loan is collateral free since the general aim is to raise the poverty line. If the borrower is unable to write her name (sometimes the case) Grameen will provide her with writing lessons so that she will be able to write this information. This is important as each woman signs her name attesting to loan payments at the weekly business meetings.

After our briefing with Golam we heard testimonials from 4 male students whose mothers had taken out higher education loans from Grameen so they could attend University.

We then made our way to the village. Julia and I rode with in Golam's vehicle and were able to learn a little bit more about the microfinancing process and goals for each borrower. After the loan process is started, Grameen continues to check in with the borrower and family to assess the quality of life improvements. There are 10 main indicators that Grameen looks for to determine how well the borrower is doing in terms of rising above the poverty line. The 10 indicators are:
1. a home with beds for all family members (and mosquito nets)
2. water purification system
3. all children 6 years+ are going to school (when not sure of age, can tell when the child can bend his arm over his head and touch the opposite ear)
4. the woman is able to make weekly loan payments of 200tk
5. sanitary toilet
6. clothing
7. 3 meals a day
8. 5,000tk in savings
9. health care needs are met
10. additional sources of income available when needed

While at the village we were able to witness the group's official business meeting. The women had a ritual to signal the start and end of the meeting. This ritual included crossing and uncrossing the arms and standing and sitting several times. We then heard several personal accounts of when the women first starting borrowing from Grameen and how their lives and economic situation had been changed. One thing all the women adamantly agreed on was that they have more saris now than they were ever able to afford before receiving a loan.

The day was very insightful to Bangla culture and the ideas of microfinancing and the many positive effects it has on these families and villages. These women are so dedicated and driven to success with an innate knowledge of business and finance needed to thrive. To be able to develop a profit-generating idea, receive a loan, and then make the dream a reality without formal training, business plans, or legal contracts is an incredible notion and the reason Grameen can be thanked for raising the poverty line in Bangladesh as well as the other countries they operate.

Jobra Hathazari Branch, Grameen Bank

Bengali pointing the way to the office

Inside the office

Inside the Jobra Hathazari Branch - all loan payments are kept in record books

4 University students who are enrolled at the University of Chittagong thanks to Grameen Bank's Loan for Higher Education

fields upon fields for cultivating crops in the Jobra village, Bangladesh

first arriving in the village

a few curious men from the village

attending the official business meeting --each team of 5 women sit in a row with the group leader on the far left and the group-at-large's leader in the front left

official closing of the business meeting

one of the borrowers

Jobra village, Bangladesh

just another glimpse into the beauty of Jobra


Jess Barrow said...

great pics!! glad you wrote something on this so i could learn more about what it was like.

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