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Sir Fazle Abed: In 1974 there was a famine in one area of Bangladesh, and I went there to try and do famine relief work. There were emaciated women and their malnourished babies.  All the men had left.  And I thought: the men abandon children and women, but women don’t.  If we want to change our society, we need to focus our attention on our women, who are not going to abandon anybody.  

We found that when we added three million borrower groups in our micro finance program we had about 380,000 women who were producing vegetables for livelihood, but we found that they don’t have high-quality vegetable seeds, so we went into seed multiplication as a business in order to supply our women with high-quality seeds.  But then once we had gone into business not only we supplied to our own clients, but also we supplied throughout the country high-quality seeds, so development automatically happened in the sense that more productive horticulture program was started throughout Bangladesh.

So it was a combination of microfinancial services and then enterprises, training that we provided them.  Generally, it was a holistic approach to development: microfinance with plus, plus.  Plus means providing them support in terms of inputs and services and training.  The other plus is providing them healthcare, education for their children, so at least you can break the cycle of poverty.  The next generation will not be poor.

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Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd


What Girls Can Teach the World

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