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Sarita Gupta is a Vice-President of Women's World Banking based in New York.
Could you tell me who founded Women's World Banking and why?
The idea behind Women's World Banking came out in a meeting that was held in Mexico in 1975. It was a United Nations first International Year of the Woman and really they were gathering women from around the world to discuss women and human rights and there was a small group that started to think if we could work on only one issue, because they were discussing domestic violence, you know, economic access, education, the whole plethora of human rights. So if we could only discuss one issue, sort of focus on one issue, put all our energies behind it, what would that be, what would be that catalyst? And they decided that it would be economic independence for women. So that if a woman has the access to financial independence, then she can choose, and she can have greater access to education, opportunity, well-being, and that's where the idea came about and Women's World Banking was really set up, the first mission was to give women all over the world a greater access to the economies in their own countries.

Where did the idea of microfinance come from?
The idea behind microfinance again goes back to the mid-70s. There had been, by that time, several decades of what we call 'the Western World' giving massive amounts of aid to the developing world and a realization that a lot of it was not working, there were still many people who were left poor. So, you know, Muhammad Yunus is credited as being the father of microfinance. He's an economist living in Bangladesh, a very poor country, and he looked around and he said, 'What is it that the poor lack? What is that' they need?' And the answer is obvious: they need money. And all of us, in order to get started, have had access to credit. So, the poor can't get access to credit, they can't go to relatives to borrow because generally the relatives are as poor as they themselves are, and they certainly cannot go into a bank and borrow because they have no collateral.

 

How did Dr Yunus solve these problems?
There are really three innovations that he came up with that are brilliant in hindsight. One was, OK the poor have no collateral, but let's figure out a way to create collateral, which means collateral is basically if you're not going to pay back the loan that somebody's held responsible. So he came up with a lending methodology where there was a group of peers that were given the loan and they would be lending to each other and the group held each member accountable for paying back. The second innovation that he came up with is that it is very difficult for the poor to gather a lump sum to pay back a loan, but if you can break up that payment into very small regular payments that are coming out of your daily income, then it's feasible to pay back the loan. So what microcredit did was break up the loan payment into these very sort of regular small payments. And the third was really an incentive system, that the poor were not encouraged to borrow a large amount, they only borrowed what they could use in their business and then pay back, and if they paid back successfully, then they were eligible for a larger loan.
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