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RESULTS Dismayed over Bangladeshi Government Takeover of Grameen Bank’s Leadership

August 2, 2012 — Today, the Bangladesh cabinet approved changes to the Grameen Bank Ordinance (the 1983 law that created Grameen Bank) that would gut the power of Grameen Bank’s Board of Directors and transfer authority to the government-appointed chairman to select the next managing director of the Bank.

Grameen Bank provides credit and other critical services to more than 8.3 million of the poorest women in Bangladesh, and is 97 percent owned by these women borrowers. The borrowers comprise nine of the 12 seats on the Board of Directors. 

In May of 2011, Muhammad Yunus, the Nobel-prize winning founder of Grameen Bank, was forced out of his position as managing director after a campaign of politically-motivated intimidation and pressure by Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her government.

Joanne Carter, Executive Director of RESULTS and RESULTS Educational Fund, issued the following statement in response:

“I am alarmed and dismayed over the Government of Bangladesh’s latest move to expropriate the Grameen Bank from its poor women borrowers. This is a scandalous attack on women’s rights.  

“After the forced resignation of Muhammad Yunus as managing director of Grameen Bank, the Board of Directors followed existing procedures to select a new managing director. Instead of allowing this process to move forward, the government intervened and transferred authority to the government-appointed chairman of the Board. In doing so, the government has violated the human and legal rights of the millions of women borrowers who are represented by nine of the 12 seats on the Board of Directors and who own the vast majority of Grameen Bank’s shares. 

“In the fall of 2010, the United States Congress recognized Muhammad Yunus’s invaluable contributions to reducing poverty and empowering the rural women of Bangladesh by voting to award him the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award bestowed by the U.S. Congress. Professor Yunus is only the seventh person in history to have received the Gold Medal, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Nobel Peace Prize. In keeping with congressional support for a thriving and independent Grameen Bank, we urge Speaker of the House John Boehner to immediately schedule the ceremony to award Professor Yunus the Gold Medal when Congress is back in session in September. 

“The United States has been a long time supporter of Bangladesh and its people, giving over $200 million in foreign assistance in 2012 alone. The expropriation of Grameen Bank by the government of Bangladesh, and the ongoing intimidation of its founder and legal board, places all of Bangladeshi civil society at risk and undermines the ability to effectively deliver anti-poverty efforts. We urge our allies in Congress and the Administration to stand up for the rights of the women borrowers of Grameen Bank and urge the Prime Minister and government of Bangladesh to restore power to the Board of Directors to decide Grameen’s future.”