We shall collectively take on bigger investments for higher incomes.
We shall always be ready to help each other. If anyone is in difficulty, we shall all help them.
If we come to know of any breach of discipline in any center, we shall all go there and help restore discipline.
We shall take part in all social activities collectively.
JB: I love that the borrowers came up with the list themselves. There's an astounding statistic in the film regarding the small beginnings of Grameen and its exceedingly long reach now. Is it true?
HM: Grameen began by loaning a total of $27 divided up among 42 people. Now they loan to 8,000,000 borrowers. More than one out of every 1,000 people on earth has a Grameen loan!
JB: That is impressive! Let's zoom in on a personal story, Holly. Aroti is a borrower who has been involved in the program for 15 years. How had her life changed over that time?
HM: Aroti started out just like the rest of these women; she had a one room house that was not very sturdy. Over the years, she has been very successful with her entrepreneurial activities and has continually grown her businesses. She has a water pump where she trades water in exchange for a percentage of the crop and she rents out two of her former homes. Over time, she has done so well that she was able to run for her local village council and win (again, one of the benefits of microcredit is having some leisure time).
In between the two years between my visit from 2008 to 2011, she had built an entire new cement house with indoor plumbing. I was shocked to see her continued visible progress when I returned.
JB: Aroti is definitely a success story. Turning to Grameen Bank, its behavior during natural disasters is so different from anything I could imagine happening here in the States. Do you agree?
HM: I was there for Cyclone Sidhr in 2008, a disaster of enormous proportions, and I was absolutely amazed to watch the bank go into "relief effort mode." Grameen mobilized an effort to drop alum packets on remote areas so that people would have clean drinking water. They distributed huge amounts of clothing. And they started giving new loans to the survivors, so that they could get back on their feet. As Yunus puts it, since the borrowers are actually the bank owners, then it is important for them to become functional as soon as possible.
Additionally, because of Yunus' other ventures with cell phones and solar panels, hundreds of thousands of lives were saved during the cyclone. In the 1970s, half a million people died in one cyclone and 150,000 died in another one the "90s. This time around only 10,000 people died and it was primarily due to the advance notice people in really remote coastal areas got via these newly available technologies, that they were able to get to the shelters in time. I just wonder how much better the Katrina victims might have fared, if they had had the support of Grameen Bank behind them.
JB: What happens in Bangladesh to women who become old and infirm and don't have funds or anyone to care for them?
HM: You see older women having an especially hard time. The history of widows throwing themselves on funeral pyres is not that far in the past, and a lot of families see the extra mouth to feed as a burden. The difficulties Surjobano, an older widow faces, are pretty severe. She talks about how when her father died, that her brothers didn't want to share any of the inheritance with her and her sisters. And even now, her son threatens to throw her out! Sometimes her son and his wife fed her, but other times they refused. I watched them argue one time, and I couldn't understand how he could refuse to feed his own mother, but apparently there was bad blood between her and his wife.