Guest viewpoint: Microfinance can trap poor women in debt

By Lamia Karim
The Register-Guard

Karim_microfinance coverOn Monday, Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank, will be in Portland to kick off Oregon’s statewide social business initiative. As an anthropologist who has worked in this area for the past 15 years, let me pose some difficult questions about microfinance from Bangladesh.

Grameen Bank, the pioneering institution of microfinance and 2006 winner of the Nobel Prize, made its reputation through targeting poor women in Bangladesh.

The bank, with its much-­celebrated 98 percent rate of loan recovery, has effectively demonstrated to the financial community that the poor are “bankable” — that is, the poor form a large pool of credit-strapped people who desperately need access to capital and they will repay those loans.

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