Micro credit initiative helps ease burden of the poor

IPOH - A micro credit initiative in Bangladesh has helped eradicate begging, improved education, and increased the number of homes equipped with electricity, said Grameen Shakti managing director Nurjahan Begum.

Known as the Grameen Microcredit Bank and founded by 2006 Nobel laureate Prof Muhammad Yunus with just US$47 (RM202.43 or S$66), had the aim of empowering women and provide education and housing loans as well as other funds to help the poor.

Speaking at the Pangkor International Development Dialogue yesterday, Nurjahan said the micro credit bank had allocated funds to provide food and other supplies to beggars, some of whom eventually went on to start their own businesses.

"Mobile phones were also introduced to poor families while scholarships were given to needy students.

"All these helped to generate income for the poor within their own homes," she said.

Nurjahan said divorce was also prevented as poverty was eradicated while education loans encouraged the poor to send their children to school, with some even entering universities.

"However, there are still some challenges that we face, namely the difficulty in changing the mindset of the older generation who believe women should stay home and not work.

"There are also many people who refuse to take up the loans, thinking that the loans would have to be repaid at high interest rate," she added.

Yayasan Bina Upaya Darul Ridzuan chief executive officer Khairul Azwan Harun said the foundation, which served as an empowerment agency, offered micro credit loans to youth entrepreneurs and automotive industry training cluster loans, among others.

"Our future plans are to tackle issues faced by the middle income group as well as become a source of reference for social enterprising in Malaysia while extending banking facilities to the poor," he said.