A Nobel Peace Prize-winning ‘bank for the poor’ could soon begin operating in Grafton.
The Grameen Bank, founded by Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus, is a microfinance organisation offering loans to disadvantaged budding entrepreneurs in Cambodia, the Philippines, Bangladesh and the USA.
Grameen Australia representatives are currently in Grafton where they hope to launch the first Australian branch of the program.
Director Masud Isa said Grameen offered small loans, known as microfinance, to the impoverished without requiring collateral.
“The primary basis is people who are financially excluded, those who cannot give collateral security to the bank or the banks don’t consider them bankable,” Mr Isa said.
“Most of the borrowers in America are women from Latin America and black Americans from low income populations on social welfare.”
Women inspired to become entrepreneurs
He said the Grameen Bank had dispersed more than $26 billion to 8.8 million borrowers, 97% of whom were women, since 1983.
“In Bangladesh, the best part of it is the women, who would be sitting back in the houses in a lineal and very conservative society where they were not even allowed to come out of the house,” Mr Isa said.
“We inspired them to come out of the house and converted them into entrepreneurs.
“Poverty declined very fast and financial exclusion declined very fast [and] the power balance within families changed.
“When money is being channelled to women, it not only benefits the family, it benefits the women’s empowerment process as well.”
Mr Isa said Grameen clients had payback rates of about 98%, and the repayments were made with interest but over longer periods of time than traditional banks.
“The impact has been humongously [sic] good,” Mr Isa said.
“Giving money to those people to create employment and jobs not only changes the balance of economic disparity but also lifts them to a level where they can start dreaming of a better life.”
Grafton stands out as region to benefit
Grameen Australia chief executive, Duncan Power, said the organisation had researched areas of Australia that would benefit from their service, and the Grafton region stood out.
Mr Power and Mr Isa were invited to the region by Bendigo Bank representatives and together this week, they have been holding community meetings to determine interest in the service and the logistics of how it will be implemented in Grafton.