Wednesday, February 28, 2007

...from small beginning

Like with many established big ventures, it is sometimes difficult to imagine that they had actually started as a small single step.

Here are two stories of small beginnings:

    "In 1971, migrant women working as cart-pullers in the city’s cloth market came to me in TLA, where I had started my work life working for textile mill workers of Ahmedabad. The women who lived on the footpath, were seeking help for better living conditions. Next month came the head loader women of the same cloth market, feeling agitated about very low rates of payment (30 paise per trip carrying the bale of cloth from a wholesaler to a retailer). They felt exploited by the traders. Then followed the used garment dealer women in search of credit facility... That was 1971. Some of these urban, poor, self- employed women workers came to the meeting that I called in a public garden where we formed our trade union (1972). We called it the Self Employed Women’s Association, SEWA."
That was the beginning of SEWA

    "Yunus had never met Sufiya Khatun on his many walks through her village. Sufiya, a widow, was trying to support herself by constructing and selling bamboo stools. She earned two cents a day. When Yunus asked why her profit was so low, she explained that the only person who would lend her money to buy bamboo was the trader who bought her final product--and the price he set barely covered her costs.

    Yunus's instinct was to dig into his pocket. But first he wanted to see if there were other villagers in similar circumstances. He and a few students canvassed the village and compiled a list of forty-two people whose capital requirements, in order to buy materials and work freely, added up to about $26.00.

    Through the years he would recount that story hundreds of times. A decade later, testifying before the U.S. Congress Select Committee on Hunger in a hearing devoted to micro-enterprise credit, he recalled what had gone through his mind: "I felt extremely ashamed of myself being part of a society that could not provide twenty-six dollars to forty-two able, skilled human beings who were trying to make a living."
...that is how the Grameen story started