Today was a busy day. The Zonal Manager picked us up at the branch with his SUV and brought us to a Center Chief Training Session, then the Area Office, and finally the Zonal Office. While we learned a lot about the structural organization of Grameen through these visits, the highlight for me was the center chief training session, where we got to see the process of borrower motivation in action. The session was not so much real training, but the Zonal Manager giving a speech, and pointing out issues he wanted the women to emphasize in their respective centers. And I thought his explanation for this was very interesting. He told the women, “I don’t have to tell you the rules and regulations of Grameen Bank, as you probably know them better than I do. Grameen is YOUR bank. You built it. My telling you about it would be like you telling your mother the story your parents’ house. You are the mothers of Grameen Bank.” What an amazing concept – a bank that belongs to its borrowers.
The Zonal Manager continued to focus on the women’s roles as mothers by talking about the importance of educating their children, which, as I had witnessed in the villages, is the most powerful motivation for many of the borrowers. He quoted Napoleon and said, “Give me an educated mother, and I’ll give you an educated nation.” As the mothers of Grameen Bank, the responsibility of their children’s education, and perhaps the future of the nation, was in their hands. One mother stood up and said she was saving everything for her son’s education, and that she would not even tell her husband what was in her savings account. Everyone applauded her. The Zonal Manager then said he would approve Higher-Education Loans for any and all of their children who complete 12th grade; or if they had top marks, they could apply for the Grameen Scholarship program. And, if they wanted to start a business after graduating university, they could apply for a New-Entrepreneurship Loan. Grameen really is one of those thoroughly good organizations, sincerely working for the betterment of the Bangladeshi people. And providing these types of opportunities to borrowers’ children is a powerful, positive system of incentive that keeps women motivated to pay back their loans on time, in full.