Grameen Bank, Microfinance, Poverty -- Developing countries, Women -- Developing countries -- Social conditions


It is widely accepted as fact that the creation of a stable financial system is the catalyst which facilitates economic development and prosperity. However, developing countries which embark on a path of change often forget the cardinal rule: addressing the needs of those who suffer from poverty, inequality, and political strife. In other words, change starts from the ground up; not the other way around. First among the challenges facing these countries, is the need to change the lending rules followed by traditional financial institutions- banks and other private lenders- who are unwilling to provide their services to individuals with little income and few if any assets that can be used as collateral. Second, global organizations like the United Nations, World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund have failed to provide aid in a way that forces the creation of positive and sustainable change for fragile and destabilized societies. For this reason, many developing countries which receive financial aid are no better off than they were before the interventions occurred, and in some cases worse. Finally, other aid programs and even well-intentioned government efforts to reduce poverty fail simply because they are misguided. Too much attention and financial resources are devoted to grand schemes of long-term duration and not enough is given to impacting human lives in the present. In 1973, visionary economist Muhammud Yunus witnessed his beloved country of Bangladesh sinking into the deepest realms of poverty; much of its population in despair and left without hope of extricating itself from a bleak existence. The problem was compounded by the fact that its government was preoccupied with matters of State iii rather than those of its people; its financial institutions were oblivious to the pain and hunger which surrounded them, and international donors were simply giving away money without any form of control or direct involvement. Out of this scenario, Yunus started with an idea that would alter not only his life, but the lives of people in Bangladesh and the world over: micro-finance. To this day, nearly every text written on the subject calls micro-finance a weapon in the fight against global poverty, but only a mere few recognize just how much of the gains made in this ―fight‖ are attributable to the direct involvement of women in micro-financing. This thesis posits that while Muhammud Yunus created an idea for the benefit of ―the global poor‖, it actually became a medium for the empowerment of women around the world. In fact, much of the praise awarded to micro-finance as success omit recognition of what should be obvious: the driving force behind the success of microlending is (poor) women. This statement does not seek to diminish the merits of an idea which has put a significant mark on the global economy, or to ignore the accomplishments of millions of men who through hard work have overcome poverty. However, what began as a genderless effort to help the poor of Bangladesh soon changed to one that overwhelmingly favored women. To this day, lending primarily to women has become the modus operandi of the microfinance industry for one reason above all: because women have proven they are a good business risk. The first part of this thesis will analyze the birth and development of the microfinancing system with special emphasis on its creator, Muhammed Yunus and the financial institution he founded for the purpose of implementing his idea, Grameen Bank. The second part will review the growth of micro-financing across the world with iv focus on Kiva, a web-based organization which represents the melding of micro-finance with 21st century technology. Finally, the thesis will look at Pro Mujer, a micro-financing organization which has successfully operated in Latin America for the last 20 years and developed a niche that expands the horizons of empowerment.


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Graduation Date





Morales, Waltraud Q.


Master of Arts (M.A.)


College of Sciences


Political Science








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Masters Thesis (Open Access)


Dissertations, Academic -- Sciences, Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic