How to create 8 million women entrepreneurs

What does the word ‘entrepreneur’ conjure up?
I tend to envisage thrusting young men, earning megabucks from inexplicably complicated high-tech companies. Or, at least, Richard Branson, Tom Hunter or Michelle Mone, founders of multi-million pound empires. Yet most entrepreneurs are not in those categories at all. Most are small businesses.

The Oxford Dictionary defines an entrepreneur as ‘a person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit.’
And if you are imagining British, European, American or perhaps Chinese business people boldly going…then think again. The organisation which has probably done more to promote true entrepreneurship than any other currently operating in the world, with the most exciting potential for growth, started nearly 30 years ago in one of the world’s poorest countries: Bangladesh.
Founder, economist and Nobel Prize winner, Muhammad Yunus, reasoned that if you give the poorest people access to income-generating credit, under appropriate and, above all, reasonable terms which encourage repayment – including small support groups of members, keeping procedures simple and instigating a system where the lenders come to the borrowers, not vice versa – and “these millions of small people with their millions of small pursuits can add up to create the biggest development wonder.”

And he was right. By reversing the conventional wisdom about banking practice and by creating a system based on mutual trust, Professor Yunus and his staff and borrowers have created a phenomenon.
How many borrowers does the Grameen bank have? As of December 2010 it has 8.34 million.
That’s 8.34 MILLION.
How many of these are women?
That’s over 8 MILLION WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS created by this enlightened, efficient catalyst of a bank!
How does it work? How has this bank been so successful? Listen to the words on one of its early borrowers, to find out:

Here is a wonderful example of how the ‘Phone Ladies’ have brought a high tech solution to remote, rural villages. This is a solution which fits the environment and the pockets of those who use it:

Grameen Bank’s positive impact on its poor and formerly poor borrowers has been documented in many independent studies carried out by external agencies including the World Bank, the International Food Research Policy Institute (IFPRI) and the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS). Its successful model has been replicated in 38 countries. Its most recent stop? Glasgow.

Professor Pamela Gillies, Principal of Glasgow Caledonian University, and the prime mover behind bringing the bank to Glasgow, commented that the idea of micro credit isn’t a new one to Glasgow women: “We have had successful micro credit in Scotland for many years, but the Grameen Bank is a little different. By offering small loans at low interest without collateral it promises to dig even deeper into the talent of our city, unlocking creativity and work for so many thereby helping to alleviate the blight of poverty. The Grameen’s group or peer support for individual borrowers also encourages collective responsibility”.

As Professor Yunus said on a recent BBC Documentary, “If it works in every single country why can’t it work in Glasgow?”

This bank began by looking how it could solve a problem, that of poverty, not by offering a ‘solution’ which would result in profits for shareholders. It has created over 8 million entrepreneurs and, by so doing, radically changed many lives for the better. I doubt I’m the only person who finds this notion incredibly refreshing and who regards the result with genuine awe. Redesign the banking system in favour of the poor? Allow genuine creativity to flourish? Sounds good to me.

Cordelia Ditton

Fame indeed! Professor Yunus as he will soon appear in The Simpsons
The Simpsons TM and © 2010 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

1 Comment on How to create 8 million women entrepreneurs

  1. Heather Alexander // February 11, 2011 at 8:56 am // Reply

    Excellent article. It’d be great to see this working in Glasgow!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.