Friday, 13 October 2006

Muhammad Yunus and practical feminism

Now this is the kind of feminism I can really get behind!

Muhammad YunusBangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank are sharing a Nobel Peace Prize for pioneering and implementing the practice of micro-loans.
Yunus' notion -- today, known as microcredit -- has spread around the globe in the past three decades and is said to have helped more than 100 million people take their first steps to rise out of poverty.

Some bought diary cows, others egg-laying hens. In recent years, money for a single cell phone has been enough to start thriving enterprises in isolated villages without phone lines from East Asia to West Africa.

''Lasting peace cannot be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty,'' the Nobel Committee said in its citation in Oslo, Norway. ''Microcredit is one such means. Development from below also serves to advance democracy and human rights.''

A large number of the beneficiaries of microcredit have been women, which is why I made the link to feminism.
''I can't express in words how happy I am,'' said Gulbadan Nesa, 40, who five years ago used $90 from the Grameen Bank to buy chickens so she could sell eggs. She's since taken more loans and expanded into selling building materials.

''Not long ago I was almost begging for money to feed my family,'' she said from Bishnurampur, her village in northern Bangladesh. ''Today, I've got my own house and enough money to feed my children and send them to school.''

This is the kind of feminism that gets me excited. It seems innocuous when you first look at it, but this is the kind of empowerment that has profound, lasting results. Families are lifted out of poverty, women gain dignity and independence, all through a very simple mechanism. And it is downright insidious and apolitical, with only lunatics like the Taliban likely to oppose it. No, I have no official statement from them along those lines. Seeing as they routinely firebomb schools teaching women skills for microbusinesses, I think it only likely they would oppose this kind of initiative as well. Most third world countries smile benignly and allow this kind of activity, which may ultimately prove to be positively seditious, both in terms of women's rights and in terms of political power.

And - dare I say it? - it is also capitalism at its finest. While I am very worried about some of the extremes of capitalism (think huge multi-nationals), this kind of capitalism dignifies and enables individuals and through them their families and the entire society, bit by bit.

I think the Nobel Committee chose very wisely this year.

Technorati tags: , ,

No comments:


blogger templates | Make Money Online