WASHINGTON, Aug. 15, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- In open letters to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Members of Congress and a diverse set of global leaders called on the government of Bangladesh to preserve the independence of Grameen Bank. Grameen Bank provides critical services to nearly 8.4 million of the poorest women in Bangladesh.
The open letters come in advance of the government-appointed Grameen Bank Commission's final report. The commission's June 2012 working paper included proposals that would wrest control of the bank from its borrowers, who currently control 97 percent of Grameen Bank's shares and hold nine of 13 seats on the bank's board of directors. The proposals include giving the government a majority stake in the bank and a majority of seats on the bank's board, and breaking the bank into 19 or more separate entities.
Grameen Bank's founder and former managing director, Nobel Peace Prize winner Professor Muhammad Yunus, was forced out of his position in May 2011. One year later, the government appointed the commission to review the operations of Grameen Bank and make recommendations as to its future. The commission's term ended on July 20, but a final report has not yet been released. While it is not clear when this report will be made public, it is believed that the same harmful recommendations made in the interim report will remain in the final report. If implemented, they would undermine the bank's independence and jeopardize its vital work.
The open letters to Prime Minister Hasina from 32 members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives and 40 international leaders appeared in the Washington Post and the International Herald Tribune, respectively.
Joanne Carter, Executive Director of RESULTS and RESULTS Educational Fund, issued the following statement :
"Today, leaders around the world, including 32 members of the United States Congress, took a stand by urging Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh to protect the independence of the groundbreaking microfinance institution Grameen Bank and its nearly 8.4 million borrowers. I strongly commend these letters.
"Grameen Bank has long been a leader not only in innovative and effective microfinance and poverty-reduction efforts, but also in its work empowering poor, rural women in Bangladesh. Its unique and groundbreaking model has been emulated in countries around the world. Women make up the vast majority of Grameen Bank's borrowers, own 97 percent of the shares in the bank, and control nine of the 13 seats of the Board of Directors. Any attempts by the government to change the processes governing the makeup of shares held by the borrowers, the structure of the bank as whole, or the rules and processes governing the Board of Directors would be an enormous setback to the human and legal rights of these women. Moreover, this kind of egregious interference by the government would threaten the autonomy of the broader civil society in Bangladesh, who have been drivers of Bangladesh's progress in health, education, and poverty reduction.
"As we await the Commission's final report, these letters send a strong message to Prime Minister Hasina to reject any recommendations that would jeopardize the structure and autonomy of Grameen Bank.
"We are grateful for efforts by the administration and members of Congress to date, and I strongly urge Secretary of State John Kerry, the Obama Administration, and members of Congress to continue these critical efforts to defend the independence of the bank. The United States must continue to use all available diplomatic tools to urge Prime Minister Hasina to cease her campaign against Grameen Bank and allow for its continued independence, including ensuring other influential governments around the world join this call.
"For decades, Grameen Bank has provided millions of poor women, their families, and their communities the opportunity to move out of poverty and into prosperity. It must be allowed to continue to empower the people of Bangladesh without interference."
To join international leaders standing in support of Grameen, please sign the Change.org petition here.
RESULTS is a leading force to end poverty in the United States and around the world. For more information, visit www.results.org/grameen.