The Grameen Bank, founded by Nobel Peace Laureate, Muhammad Yunus, has long been heralded as leading the way in microcredit. The Bank’s unique model has been emulated throughout the world and has empowered millions of borrowers in Bangladesh, principally women, to break the cycle of poverty.
However, the independence of the Bank and the ownership of its women borrower/share holders is now under threat. Following the forced resignation of Muhammad Yunus as Managing Director, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh appointed a Commission to review the Bank’s structure and leadership. The Commission is seen as a direct move by the Government to take control of the Bank. If successful, this would be a huge set back for the social and economic rights of women in Bangladesh, and a direct attack on the freedom of civil society in the country.
Over the past few weeks there has been global condemnation of the Government’s actions (see below). Given Australia’s strong record of support for microfinance and microcredit as tools for poverty alleviation and women’s empowerment, it is crucial that the Australian Government speak out now to support the independence of the Grameen Bank and the unique role of women in the driving the Bank’s work.