August 17, 2010 | 10:48 AM
One of our colleagues recently took this picture in the Atlanta Airport. The picture shows Professor Yunus’ recently published book “Building Social Business” next to a book that she’s mildly obsessed with called “What Women Want” by Paco Underhill. The book focuses on the rise of women’s independence and the tremendous buying power women now have in the global marketplace.
From the titles, the books might not seem similar, but with further thought, the subject of “What Women Want” is a perfect compliment to the mission of Grameen America. Grameen has evolved into a social business that gives individuals a chance to lift themselves out of poverty and reach a significant level of independence. Today, both Grameen Bank and Grameen America serve primarily women. However, not long ago, women once shared the benefit of Grameen’s services equally with men.
How, then, did women end up leading the way in benefiting from Grameen’s microloans?
When Professor Yunus started lending in rural Bangladesh in 1976, the borrower demographic was only 20% women. He soon realized that when women had control of the household income, more money was kept within the family and would be used only for the most critical needs such as food, children's education, and health-care. Today, over 8 Million People in Bangladesh have benefited from Grameen Bank’s microfinance operations and 97% of them are women.
Since 2008 Grameen America has brought microfinance to low-income women in New York City and Omaha, Nebraska. Grameen America’s micro loans have made an instant impact on the lives of women in these communities. Those who have taken out loans have been able to start businesses and successfully keep savings while investing in their families needs. With a repayment rate of over 99%, these women are proving that with the help of a little money, hard work, and some big dreams they can provide a better life for their families right here in the United States.