Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Banker to the Poor

I never read non-fiction...ever. I can't remember the last thing I read besides the newspaper and my scriptures that wasn't primarily fictional. I found out about Muhammad Yunus' book Banker to the Poor a while back from my good friend and it sounded okay and when Tom and I were going to spend 13 hours driving in the car I hoped this would work out for both of us...he is a self help/technology/survival story guy and I mostly read ya fiction. Not the best reading match but we love each other anyway.

Iwas absolutely fascinated by this book. It is the autobiographical story of a Bangladeshi economist who is working, in the most literal sense, to bring the poor out of poverty. Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his work in beginning the Grameen Bank which gives microloans (tiny little loans to individuals) to help them begin or expand businesses. Several times I would exclaim out loud which would usually wake Tom up (ha!) because Iwas truly inspired by the idea and the execution of microloans.

One of the things that attracted me most to this whole idea is the focus on women. Grameen's goal from the outset was to have more than 50% of its borrowers be women. Keep in mind, most of the Bangladeshis he was loaning to were Muslim - many of whom had never handled money. Many of whom were in truly abject poverty and virtual slavery. But by loaning these women small amounts of capital (and they loan repayment rate is something insane like 98%) they are able to feed themselves and their families and feel self-respect. Wow. Seriously, I would recommend this book to anyone. It makes me feel like there is truly hope for the world.

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