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Grameen to rescue US poor

Grameen America, a US offshoot, is lending in Queens and Brooklyn, New York, and Omaha, Nebraska, and has lent to more than 2,500 American borrowers.

world Updated: Apr 22, 2010 23:51 IST

In 1976, Muhammad Yunus began making loans of a dollar or less to poor farmers and textile makers in his native Bangladesh.

Thirty years later, he and the nonprofit micro-lender he founded, Grameen Bank, shared the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. To date, Grameen has lent more than $9 billion to more than 8 million borrowers, almost all in Bangladesh.

Now Yunus plans to bring low-interest credit to the poor and unemployed in the US.

Grameen America, a US offshoot, is already lending in Queens and Brooklyn, New York, and Omaha, Nebraska, and has lent to more than 2,500 American borrowers.

“The poverty is kind of hidden because of the welfare,” he said in an interview while in Washington last week to raise money and introduce a documentary on Grameen America. “Suppose you withdrew welfare, suddenly Barack Obama decided no more welfare, so the people will come out in the open. They are the poverty.”

Similar to a franchise chain executive, Yunus asks that Grameen offices, of which there are more than 2,500 worldwide, follow a specific formula for supporting and guiding borrowers, regardless of the country.

Ninety-seven per cent of borrowers are women, and nearly 100 per cent — all but one or two out of thousands — in New York are women as well, each using $500 to $3,000 in credit to start hair salons, bakeries, clothing companies and other businesses.

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