Monday, March 9, 2009

The Sixteen Decisions.

The purpose of this post is to take us back a little bit to the foundations of the microlending movement and his creator, Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammed Yunus from Bangladesh. As I mentioned on the very first post of this blog, Muhammed Yunus took his inspiration to create Grammen Bank from lending a small amount of money to a group of families on his native country after a terrible natural disaster in 1974.

He noticed that it was impossible for poor families to get out of the poverty cycle, since they are totally excluded from the mainstream banking system in order to get funds to create a microbusiness, and the only funds available would be from shark lenders that charge an outrageous amount of interest. That situation is not exclusive to Bangladesh, take a look to another post earlier on this blog about shark loans on Mexico, where companies such as Banco Azteca and Elektra charge 60% or more of interest to low income families.

Grameen Bank developed the following Sixteen Desicions in order to make long term improvements to the conditions of the poor.

  1. The four principles of Grameen Bank --Discipline, Unity, Courage, and Hard Work-- we shall follow and advance in all walks of our lives.
  2. We shall bring prosperity to our families.
  3. We shall not live in dilapidated houses. We shall repair our houses and work towards constructing of new houses as soon as possible.
  4. We shall grow vegetables all the year round. We shall eat plenty of them and sell the surplus.
  5. During the plantation season, we shall plant as many seedlings as possible.
  6. We shall plan to keep our families small. We shall minimize our expenditures. We shall look after our health.
  7. We shall educate our children and ensure that they can earn to pay for their education.
  8. We shall always keep our children and the environment clean.
  9. We shall build and use pit latrines.
  10. We shall boil water before drinking or use alum to purify it. We shall use pitcher filters to remove arsenic.
  11. We shall not take any dowry at our sons' weddings; neither shall we give any dowry in our daughters' weddings. We shall keep the center free from the curse of dowry. We shall not practice child marriage.
  12. We shall not inflict any injustice on anyone; neither shall we allow anyone to do so.
  13. For higher income we shall collectively undertake bigger investments.
  14. We shall always be ready to help each other. If anyone is in difficulty, we shall all help.
  15. If we come to know of any breach of discipline in any center, we shall all go there and help restore discipline.
  16. We shall take part in all social activities collectively.

The Sixteen Desicions may look like something we take for granted and don't even come to our consideration on a daily basis. But in a poor community, where sometimes raw sewage water may run down the middle of the streets, high levels of crime may be found or no social safety nets exists at all, the fostering of community cooperation and a healthy environment are the first steps for obtaining a better quality of life.

Yunus has inspired many other organizations around the world, such as his own Grammen Bank, and of course, Kiva.

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