Women as Engines Out of Poverty

Robin Wright

Female focused development in the Third World is proving more cost-effective. In Asia, micro-loans have opened the way for a sweeping challenge to the patriarchal social order.

Changing Attitudes

Men are initially very nervous. The average husband doesn't want the loan, as he fears he'll have to pay it back," said Yunus of Grameen Bank. "He also becomes antagonistic when his wife gets the loan, as he thinks he's being humiliated." In Bangladesh and elsewhere, assets such as land titles often have to be transferred to the wife for her to get a micro-loan making it more difficult for men to walk out of arranged marriages.
Over time, Yunus says, male attitudes are changing. "Most marital problems emanate from money problems. When a wife no longer nags about income, when she's busy and contributing, when kids are eating better, when housing improves, husbands usually come around," he said. "They see that they're benefiting. It's an important part of the social transformation that is pivotal to dealing with poverty."

Extracted from the Los Angels Times, May 27, 1997].