WUCL Student Spends Summer Working in Bangladesh

While many of her classmates held summer clerkships in law firms across the Pacific Northwest, Hadley Rose traveled to the People’s Republic of Bangladesh to help end poverty.

A member of WUCL’s Class of 2008, Rose spent her summer working with the Grameen Bank and its founder, Muhammad Yunus, which shared the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for a “micro-credit” project that has brought significant economic and social development to the region by providing small business loans to villagers.

Rose, who traveled to Bangladesh under a fellowship from the College of Law, has documented her experiences in a special column for the Island Guardian newspaper (Friday Harbor, Wash.). The following excerpt gives great insight into Rose’s life and work in the South Asian country:

Today, I took my first trip to a village in Manikganj…. The village was about 40 miles from Dhaka, which takes two hours by treacherous taxi. The odd part about "rural" Bangladesh is that the country is so overpopulated that even the rural areas are full of people, and the roads full of cars, trucks, buses and rickshaws. The buses are packed to the brim and are often tipping over to one side. The buses typically have a lackey hanging out the door checking for openings in traffic they can squeeze through. The trucks are large and clumsy, painted brightly like the rickshaws, and often carrying a few men as passengers on top of any cargo they are also carrying.

After arriving at the village, we were able to meet the branch manager and ask him about how he ran the branch. His branch has been in existence for 23 years, which is one of the oldest Grameen Bank branches. Because the branch is so old, there are many success stories of families coming out of poverty, starting out by buying one small piece of land, then a few cows, and then a new house and a bus.

After talking with the branch manager in his office, we walked to the group meeting.… All the women are formed into groups of five, and these groups essentially create the peer pressure that takes the place of collateral in the loans; if one woman doesn't pay back her loan, then no one in the group gets to take out another loan. This tends to work quite well in Bangladeshi culture, and the repayment rate for Grameen loans is about 98 percent.

Part of the Grameen model is the "16 Decisions," which are essentially the Grameen social agenda. A woman who does not follow the decisions will be at the whim of her group and may be disallowed from taking another loan. The decisions range from environmental issues to family planning, education and democratic principles. The women were all in agreement that the most important of the 16 Decisions was the prohibition on giving or accepting a dowry. They said that they now have more confidence and their husbands include them in family decision making.

Rose’s complete narratives can be found on the Island Guardian Web site.