Bangladesh: Micro-Lending

"“A one-eyed uncle is better than no uncle at all”

Bangladeshi Proverb

🇧🇩 Location: Dhaka, Bangladesh

👥 Partners: BRAC

💫 Mission: To develop micro-lending programing for small businesses in Bangladesh.


All the cars in Dhaka, Bangladesh look like crumbled up aluminum cans, because in the most densely populated city in the world, everyone drives like bumper cars. Every building looks half built, because they are. Finished buildings cost more in taxes.

Dhaka is bigger than New York and the average person makes about $5 a day. There is a slum in the city that where over 200,000 people live. It lies in a marshland surrounded by the curve of a river. To get to the slum we got on small wooden raft, and a man paddled us across the thick swampy river full of garage. There are no streets, just narrow paths often covered in sewage, between the make-shift constructions of plywood, mud bricks and metal sheeting. Children and dogs were everywhere.

We visited a birthing center, one of three in the slum. It was a single room with light blue walls and deep scratches on the outside of the door. About four women a week would give birth at this center alone on the mattress on the floor in the corner. BRAC had trained the midwives here, making it safer for the women and children. I later learned the scratches on the door were from the dogs who would try to get in.

There was a school, and the children had prepared songs and dances. They smiled and played. This memory has always stuck with me. The circumstance did not define their perspective.

Outside of Bangladesh, about 100 mile south there are cities and villages built on clothing and brick manufacturing. There are big factories surrounded by rice patty fields. Over a 100 Tigers live surrounding swampy jungle called the Sundarbans, and it is not uncommon for people to be killed and dragged away.

BRAC had set up mico-lending programs in the cities and villages where people could borrow a few hundred dollars, enough to start a small business and pay back over time. This changed peoples lives. People being able to have an opportunity to get out of poverty and build a future brought optimism and excitement to these closely nit communities.

For a story about rural Nepal:

Nepal: Equality & Health