Women and Microcredit in Rural Bangladesh: An Anthropological Study of Grameen Bank Lending

Aminur Rahman

The book is the first anthropological study on Grameen Bank lending to women in rural Bangladesh presenting borrowers' account of lending instead of lenders. The findings of this research challenge conventional understanding and orthodox views about the success of the microcredit projects and bring new dimensions to examine and understand the impact of microcredit projects on clients.

The cover page of the book reads:

The Grameen Bank of Bangladesh has been extending small loans to poor borrowers, primarily women to promote self-employment and income generation since 1976. The apparent success of the Grameen Bank (that is, recruitment of clients, investment of loans, recovery rates on invested loans and profit margins) has made microcredit a new model for poverty alleviation and sustainable development. Anthropological research results on Grameen Bank lending to women presented in this book, however, illuminated the link between the success of the Bank and debt-cycling of borrowers. The priority of earning profits to insure institutional economic viability caused Bank employees at the grassroots level to emphasize increasing the number of loans disbursed and loan recovery. By using the joint liability model of lending, the bank workers and borrowing peers impose intense pressure on clients for timely repayment. Many borrowers maintain their regular repayment schedules, but do so through a process of loan recycling (that is, pay off previous loans with new ones) that considerably increases borrower debt liability. The debt burdens on individual households in turn increase tension and anxiety among household members and produce unintended consequences for many clients.

The book examines women borrowers' involvement with the microcredit program of the Grameen Bank, and the grassroots lending structure of the bank; it illustrates the implications of Grameen lending for the borrowers, their household members and bank workers. The focus of the study is on the processes of village- level microcredit operation; it addresses the realities of the day-to-day lives of women borrowers and bank workers and explains informant strategies for involving themselves in this microcredit scheme. The study is on the power dynamics of everyday lives of informants as they affect women borrowers relationships within the household and the loan centers, and bank worker relationships within the loan center and the bank.

Aminur Rahman, the author of the book was born and raised in Bangladesh. He has a Master Degree in sociology (University of Dhaka, Bangladesh), M.Phil., in social anthropology (University of Oslo, Norway) and Ph.D in anthropology (University of Manitoba, Canada). Before going abroad for higher studies Rahman worked several years with national and international NGOs in Bangladesh. He taught at the University of Manitoba, Canada, and has been published in many international journals, including World Development. Rahman is currently working with the Small Enterprise program of the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Ottawa, Canada.

Released October 22, 1999, by Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado, USA.

Hari Srinivas - hsrinivas@gdrc.org
Return to the New Publications Page
Return to the Virtual Library on Microcredit