Arrow-right Camera


Poor Women Describe Success To First Lady

Tue., April 4, 1995

Hillary Rodham Clinton said she came to the Indian subcontinent to learn, and her teachers on Monday were the women of a tiny Hindu village.

They taught her how to drape a sari, they taught her how to wear the teep - a decorative red dot on the forehead - and they taught her about how their lives have changed for the better.

Moishahati is a Grameen Bank village, one of 35,000 in impoverished Bangladesh where the rural poor can get small loans to make fish nets, keep bees, buy cows, or maybe one day get enough land for a house.

Women in a rainbow of saris gathered in the village courtyard for a testimony meeting of sorts, eager to tell Mrs. Clinton about their success stories and the opposition they had overcome.

One woman proudly told Mrs. Clinton that where once she had nothing to eat, “now I have built a house for myself with a Grameen Bank loan, I have my bed, I have chickens … I have cattle, I can eat enough, I send my children to school, I keep everything clean.”

These are no small feats in a country where 45 percent of the population lives in poverty, malnutrition is high and only 20 percent of women are literate.

Grameen is a very unconventional bank, serving almost as a way of life and a declaration of independence for women in this male-dominated culture.

Started in 1976, the bank now serves more than 2 million people, with a repayment rate of 98 percent on loans averaging little more than $100. About 94 percent of the borrowers are women.

Tags: travel

Click here to comment on this story »