Micro-finance and Social Development
Bangladesh is considered as the motherland of micro finance. It has proved that poorer people can borrow money, use it wisely and pay back on time, improving their own conditions and those of the community.
To alleviate poverty and empower poor women, CHDP started a savings and credit program in 1993. However, due to the wide availability of such micro-credit programs, in 2008-09, LAMB handed over its micro-credit group activities to another local NGO already active in this area. Through strategic review, we felt the social development possibilities through micro-credit were being lost because of the women’s perceptions and use of the services more like a bank.
Now women’s groups have been reformed with the understanding that savings which the groups collect are under the group’s control, some of whom use local banks, some still using household storage—but all insisting and proud of the fact they manage their own finances (some admitting they put money away to have it available without needing their husbands approval!). The money is distributed to group members partly according to emergency needs (given by group consent) and partly by in-turn access to a larger sum.
Social development through neighborhood groups
When LAMB restructured after devolving micro-credit, women’s groups were reformed under another approach called ‘Partcipatory Action Research’. This is part of a family of approaches seeking participatory learning and action among often low-literacy and marginalized poor, in LAMB’s case former micro-credit women’s group members.
These women now seek to understand reasons behind barriers to health and develop local initiatives to overcome those barriers. For example, one groups decided to assign members to accompany pregnant mothers so they could attend antenatal clinic visits. Another group successfully petitioned their local council members to have street lights installed to protect teenage girls who returned home from school after dark.
They learn by doing, where success in small projects and management of local conflicts gives them experience and confidence to tackle larger issues. LAMB is currently working on establishing better links between these groups as well as more direct link with the informal leadership groups described above.