I believe the microfinance programs for rural women in Bangladesh and elsewhere are anti-poor and anti-women rather than pro-poor and pro-women. Muhammad Yunus loves to call it ‘social business,’ but they are in reality greedy business run by draconian loan-sharks. The word ‘social’ here is used for media consumption only.
Poor are the most vulnerable segment in any society, and women are the most vulnerable among that segment. So, the sharks of ‘social business’ are committing a crime against the most vulnerable of the most vulnerable in society. They are coming to the poor women offering a loan that demands at least a 20% interest rate to be paid on a weekly basis.
In my organization, I recently made a book-review of the most recent book of Muhammad Yunus titled ‘A World of Three Zeros’ (2017) where he explained how his ‘social business’ is going to solve the problem of poverty, unemployment, and climate change effects. The book advocates ‘social business’ as a solution to the problems of capitalism. He mocks that the ‘invisible hands’ of capitalism favors only the rich. Well, I found the ‘visible hands’ of social business and microfinance is chocking the throats of poor women of Bangladesh and elsewhere.
Grameen will sell ‘bad’ ideas in ‘rosy’ words. They will say we do not ask for any collaterals. What they won’t tell is that instead of physical collateral they imposed ‘social collateral’ where five women in the neighborhood would act as guarantors and will be a source of ‘pain-in-the-ass’ on a weekly basis. This social collateral is much worse than the traditional physical collaterals. On top of her harsh treatment of the husband, and taking care of kids, she now has to endure suspicious looks of five-women in the weekly meetings.
They will frame weekly meetings with clients as ‘communication’ and building relationships. The reality is the opposite. These weekly meetings are for money collection. If the poor lady is absent in a meeting, she is red flagged, and the other five collateral friends will immediately set into action and snatch her out of the deepest rabbit hole.
They will say, our repayment rate is nearly 100%. I will say, of course. These sharks made every arrangement to make it 100%. With this social collateral, the poor lady fearing social stigma have no choice but to pay these loan sharks. In most cases, she will run into yet another - nastier- shark and probably with a higher interest rate, and in this way she perpetuates her misery. In this way, the poor rural ladies in India, Bangladesh and elsewhere are born in debt, live in debt and die in debt. They never are capable of escaping the poverty trap when loan-sharks like Yunus are asking her 20% interest.
Have you ever wondered why Yunus insists on lending to women and not men? The rosy words are like ‘women empowerment’, ‘equality’, etc. All are buzzwords that the western civilization brag about. The reality is that women are less likely to protest the oppression imposed on them by loan-sharks. Women are less likely to say ‘no’ to the Grameen employee when they come to her and demand the repayment money. Men, on the other hand, can protest, can punch the shark on the face, can escape the entire village and go hidden, can form a gang of young and can create lots of problems. The sharks want to get an easy meal with fewer problems.
Do you remember the hundreds of cases of suicide of rural poor (mostly women) in Andhra Pradesh - India in late 2010? The prime cause was the loan sharks. Here is an excerpt from Business Insider Report on Feb 24, 2012, describing the horror:
First, they were stripped of their utensils, furniture, mobile phones, televisions, ration cards, and heirloom gold jewelry. Then, some of them drank pesticide. One woman threw herself in a pond. Another jumped into a well with her children. Sometimes, the debt collectors watched nearby… One woman drank pesticide and died a day after an SKS loan agent told her to prostitute her daughters to pay off her debt. She had been given 150,000 rupees ($3,000) in loans but only made 600 rupees ($12) a week.
SKS was the Indian equivalent of Bangladesh’s Grameen, and its founder Vikram Akula is an acolyte of Yunus (as Business Insider reported). As for Yunu’s Noble peace prize, it only adds statistical significance to the fact that the Swedish organization gives the most harmful people this ‘peace’ prize. Can Noble Peace prize to people like Henry Kissinger, Menachem Begin, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Barak Obama put a veil on their evil deeds?
The strong ties between Yunus and the Clinton family is not a secret, and I hope the association of the Clinton family to secret societies and elite clubs is not a secret either. By picking up this thread, I am just registering a doubt on how much credits we should give to Yunus when he cries out of sympathy for the poor rural women. I wonder how genuine Yunis is when attacking wealthy capitalists but at the same time maintaining closest ties with CEOs of Danon, Virgin, Renaults, McCain foods, etc.
I understand women employment in handicraft and other fine works that suit her emotional, biological and social aspects. However, in many of Yunu’s projects, I found him pushing rural women to jobs like selling mobile phones or Yogurts in the streets, homes, and markets. Among his first projects was ‘Grameen Ladies’ when rural women were roaming with mobile phones to get villagers to talk to their loved ones in other cities or overseas. The income from such laborious and risky jobs in most cases ends up at the hand of male relatives. Hence, it would have been wiser to give such jobs to plenty of unemployed males in the first place.
Moreover, Yunus has exploited the need of the poor women and forced her unwillingly to go against her tradition, religion, culture and social norms. No mother would like to roam around the village selling Yunus and Danon’s yogurt if she is not in dire need. No doubt Bangladeshi villagers are conservative people, and Yunus has come to strike a heavy blow to the core of their social and religious values.
Here is a brief overview of the role of women according to the Quran. You will discover without difficulty how Yunus went in direct opposition of all these Quranic verses. Verse 33:33 in the Quran asks women to stay at home and refrain from dressing in a suggestive way. The verse before that (i.e., 33:32) teaches women the etiquette of talking to men and warns her that if she talks sexy then she will risk herself to be a victim of many wolves-men out there. Verse 4:34 indicates that men are responsible to cover the expenses of his family and not the other way round. Verse 4:5 asks men not to hand over the task of controlling money to women and kids. Verse 43:18 gives some insight into the inner emotions of women and that she needs to compensate her physical incompleteness with ornamentation and that she is by nature not good at negotiations and conflict management.