Women and Children in Bangladesh: The Effects of the Grameen Bank, the World Bank, and the Global Partnership for Education

This is a paper I completed on 2018-03-01 for Dr. Judit Szente‘s course, EDF 6855: Equitable Educational Opportunity & Life Chances: A Cross-National Analysis, at University of Central Florida.

Women and Children in Bangladesh: The Effects of the Grameen Bank, the World Bank, and the Global Partnership for Education
Richard Thripp
University of Central Florida

The purpose of this paper is to investigate the effectiveness of three institutions at improving educational and financial outcomes for women and children in the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, a densely populated South Asian country that borders India. It is a United Nation’s “least developed country,” with many of the 163 million residents living in poverty.

The Grameen Bank

The Grameen Bank was founded by Dr. Muhammad Yunus in the 1970s to provide small loans to poor Bangladeshis living in rural areas. Billed as the “bank for the poor,” in 2006, the bank and its founder won a Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts. In particular, the bank focuses on loans to women so they can start or further their small businesses. Unlike other banks, Grameen lends to the poor without collateral at a lower interest rate (16% per year). A mandatory component is regular meetings with a support group of four other prospective borrowers—the bank builds “collective responsibility” by requiring a pilot test with two of five borrowers from each support group before the other three are allowed to borrow (Grameen Bank, 2018). As of 2006, the bank claims it had loaned a total of $24 billion USD to nine million borrowers.

In 1996, Pitt and Khandker administered questionnaires to loan recipients in Bangladesh, and found that although Grameen loans improved household wealth for both males and females, the loans especially helped girl’s schooling and empowered women to participate in the labor force. The authors looked at micro-loans to men as well, finding that such men were more likely to enroll their children in school and to use contraceptives. The Grameen Bank can be seen as a “three-in-one,” so to speak—an anti-poverty program, a pro-education program, and a women’s empowerment program. However, the authors note that in addition to the micro-loans themselves, the support groups with four other borrowers might contribute to positive outcomes for Grameen loan recipients. Regardless, both components are important parts of the Grameen program, which has shown excellent results in benefitting the poor. At the same time, it has managed to be cash-flow positive while lending to people who are seen as undeserving of credit by traditional banks and lenders.

Kabeer (2001) provides an account that factors in the nuances of a patriarchal culture and gender differences. In particular, even wealthy women may be discouraged from pursuing entrepreneurial efforts due to sexist stigmas in Bangladesh. A prime finding of importance, however, is that women who receive micro-loans are more likely to share it with their family, benefiting their children’s education and their partner, in addition to their business venture. However, men are less likely to share the micro-loan. Therefore, lending to women has the inherent benefit of an increased chance of benefiting the entire household rather than just the husband, father, or man.

A dissenting viewpoint is Karim’s (2008), who blasts the Grameen Bank for its 98% loan recovery rate. Karim argues that the rural poor are being subjugated by Grameen, which is only cemented by their 2006 Nobel prize award—specifically, that “Bangladeshi rural women’s honor and shame are instrumentally appropriated by micro-credit NGOs in the furtherance of their capitalist interests” (p. 5). Nonetheless, Grameen inarguably offers collateral-free loans to those who would not typically qualify, at interest rates that are relatively fair—16% per year. Even a creditworthy borrower in the US might be charged a higher interest rate on a credit card. Like educational stipends which provide direct support for rural girls to go to school (Hahn, Islam, Nuzhat, Smyth, & Yang, 2018), micro-loans can support women’s capital expenditures needed to jump-start a successful business, such as purchasing equipment or inventory.

The World Bank

The World Bank provides loans and grants to poor and developing countries for projects that alleviate poverty and promote economic growth (World Bank, 2018e). It has two main branches: The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), which offers loans with interest to countries able to repay, and the International Development Association (IDA), which, via subsidies and donations from member countries, offers interest-free loans to the poorest countries (World Bank, n.d.). IDA recipients must have growth national income (GNI) of about $1,200 USD per person or less, on average—a threshold Bangladesh is about to cross which will make it an IDA/IBRD “blend” country subject to 2% annual interest on its many existing IDA loans rather than 0.75% as it paid in the 2017 fiscal year and before (Dhaka Tribune, 2017). While $1,200 per person is low compared to the US, it is an important milestone for Bangladesh and other poor-but-developing countries.

Bangladesh receives many IDA loans, including ones that benefit women and children. The IDA committed $510 million in December 2017 toward the Transforming Secondary Education for Results Operation (World Bank, 2018d), dedicated to addressing Bangladesh’s education gap—less than a quarter of its 57 million workers have completed secondary education. The IDA has also specifically benefitted out-of-school children via a $130 million loan in 2013 that helped blanket one-third of the country with 20,400 learning centers in rural and disadvantaged areas, which have enrolled 690,000 students (World Bank, 2017b). While academic publications on the IDA’s recent efforts are scant, it would appear the IDA has made a powerful impact to benefit children and women in Bangladesh. For example, another $500 million IDA loan aims to establish “safety net systems for the poorest” (World Bank, 2018a), and a $29 million loan targets women’s economic empowerment in Bangladesh’s poor northern region (World Bank, 2018b).

Sarker and Salam (2011) performed a gender-based literature review of the impacts of the World Bank and UNESCO toward primary education in Bangladesh. Overall, they speculated that the bank’s efforts toward alleviating poverty had resulted in increased primary school enrollment—76% in 1991 compared to 98% in 2008 (91% net)—because poverty is a prime reason for failure to enroll in school. The authors also commended the World Bank for recommending focusing on girls’ education, and noted that Bangladesh’s culture is a limiting factor because it may discourage girls from going to school. Further academic research is needed to examine the World Bank’s substantial recent efforts toward education, gender equality, and poverty alleviation in Bangladesh.

The Global Partnership for Education

The Global Partnership for Education’s (GPE) efforts in Bangladesh focus on implementing a World Bank IDA-funded project called the Primary Education Development Program III (World Bank, 2018c), a $9.8 billion program to improve primary education equality, quality, and participation. The project is primarily funded by Bangladesh’s government, along with loans from the IDA and other organizations, plus a $100 million grant from the GPE for “implementation of the entire program as budget support” (GPE, 2018b), which Bangladesh began receiving in 2016. Disbursement of the grant is tied to nine key indicators including distribution of textbooks and increasing completion rates of Grade 5 primary exams.

Founded in 2002, the GPE funds education in developing countries around the world, focusing on primary and pre-primary education, girls, out-of-school children, and disadvantaged children in general (GPE, 2018a). Bangladesh was the 60th country to receive funding, and $100 million is the maximum amount a country can receive. Use of the money is wide-ranging within the IDA-funded project, and the GPE’s contribution has aided large progress for children in Bangladesh. Primary enrollment increased from 84.7% in 2010 to 98.0% in 2017, with completion rates increasing from 54.9% to 80.8% in the same timeframe (GPE, 2018b; World Bank, 2017b). Now, 32.8% of schools meet the Primary School Quality Level Indicators as compared to 17% in 2010, which is still low, but much better than before. The vast majority of schools receive their textbooks within the first month of the school year now, and 2,032 teachers have been recruited or trained.

Although the GPE is a small part of educational funding in Bangladesh that began funding the country only two years ago, its focus on rigor and standards and its experience working in other developing countries has likely contributed greatly to the wellbeing of women and children in Bangladesh, by improving educational access and quality. If they continue to be sustained, these efforts will have a positive impact for many decades to come.


The efforts of the Grameen Bank, World Bank, and Global Partnership for Education synergize. Grameen focuses on micro-loans to poor people in rural areas to start or further their business ventures. Although these people are often uneducated and do not gain education directly from the micro-loans, their financial standing tends to improve, which can allow them to provide better nutritional and educational opportunities to their children. The World Bank’s focus is broad and wide-ranging, including infrastructure and electrification projects not relevant here, but also many educational and poverty-mitigating initiatives, such as constructing a social safety net. These projects are quite important toward equity of chances and outcomes for poor women and children. The GPE, through both its organizational capital and direct financial support administered by the World Bank, improves the scope and quality of primary education in Bangladesh which further enables upward economic mobility for the poor. Overall, the efforts of these three organizations, along with many other stakeholders including a substantial commitment from the Bangladesh government, are helping to move Bangladesh from the list of least-developed countries toward the list of middle-income countries.


Dhaka Tribune (2017, October 13). World Bank loan to be costlier for Bangladesh from next FY. Retrieved from http://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/2017/10/13/world-bank-loan-costlier-bangladesh-next-fy/

Global Partnership for Education (2018a). About us. Retrieved from https://www.globalpartnership.org/about-us

Global Partnership for Education (2018b). Education in Bangladesh. Retrieved from https://www.globalpartnership.org/country/bangladesh

Grameen Bank (2018). Credit delivery system. Retrieved from http://www.grameen.com/credit-delivery-system/

Kabeer, N. (2001). Conflicts over credit: Re-evaluating the empowerment potential of loans to women in rural Bangladesh. World Development29, 63–84. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0305-750X(00)00081-4

Karim, L. (2008). Demystifying micro-credit. Cultural Dynamics, 20, 5–29. https://doi.org/10.1177/0921374007088053

Pitt, M. M., & Khandker, S. R. (1996). Household and intrahousehold impact of the Grameen Bank and similar targeted credit programs in Bangladesh. Washington, DC: World Bank Publications.

Sarker, M. F. H., & Salam, M. A. (2011). The roles of the World Bank and UNESCO in primary education in Bangladesh: A gender based analysis. Society & Change, 5(4), 7–20.

World Bank (n.d.). Where does the World Bank get its money? Retrieved from http://siteresources.worldbank.org/ESSDNETWORK/Resources/481106-1129303936381/1777397-1129303967165/1777403-1129304010757/where_does.html

World Bank (2017a, June 22). Bangladesh: Primary education development program III: Implementation status & results report. Retrieved from http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/222361498133400029/pdf/ISR-Disclosable-P113435-06-22-2017-1498133389760.pdf

World Bank (2017b, October 15). Bangladesh: Reaching out of school children II: Implementation status & results report. Retrieved from http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/907101508067358869/pdf/Disclosable-Version-of-the-ISR-BD-Reaching-Out-of-School-Children-II-P131394-Sequence-No-09.pdf

World Bank (2018a). Bangladesh safety net systems for the poorest project. Retrieved from http://projects.worldbank.org/P132634/bangladesh-safety-net-systems-poorest-project?lang=en&tab=overview

World Bank (2018b). Northern areas reduction-of-poverty initiative project: Women’s economic empowerment project. Retrieved from http://projects.worldbank.org/P113435/primary-education-development-program-iii?lang=en&tab=overview

World Bank (2018c). Primary education development program III. Retrieved from http://projects.worldbank.org/P114841/northern-areas-reduction-of-poverty-initiative-project-womens-economic-empowerment-project?lang=en

World Bank (2018d). Transforming secondary education for results operation. Retrieved from http://projects.worldbank.org/P160943/?lang=en&tab=overview

World Bank (2018e). What we do. Retrieved from http://www.worldbank.org/en/what-we-do

Youjin, H., Islam, A., Nuzhat, K., Smyth, R., & Yang, H.-S. (2018). Education, marriage, and fertility: Long-term evidence from a female stipend program in Bangladesh. Economic Development & Cultural Change, 66, 383–415. https://doi.org/10.1086/694930

On gender parity, equality, and equity; the UNESCO Education for All initiative; and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #5

This is a discussion post I wrote on 2018-02-23 for Dr. Judit Szente‘s course, EDF 6855: Equitable Educational Opportunity & Life Chances: A Cross-National Analysis, at University of Central Florida.

The fifth Education for All (EFA) goal seeks gender parity and equality in both primary and secondary school (UNESCO, 2015). Although this was originally targeted for 2015, less than half of countries reached gender parity by this time. Nonetheless, progress toward parity and equality is accelerating.

Before proceeding, I think it is important to understand differences between parity, equality, and equity. Parity merely focuses on equal enrollment and completion rates—in this case, between males and females. If a country had 10% of males and 10% of females enrolled in school, it would have achieved gender parity even though 80% of children are not going to school (a horrible outcome!). Equality means treating everyone the same. Equity means giving everyone equal opportunities by catering to their needs (see Sun, 2014 for a more thorough explanation including a cartoon!). In part, this is likely why UNESCO (2016) focuses on equity, which is more holistic. On the other hand, the United Nations (2017) goal for gender equality promotes equality via equal access, which is less useful due to its limited scope.

Counter-intuitively, equity is achieved through inequality, but in a manner opposite to the inequality we typically see. Countries that allow the poorest families equal access to schools without fees or onerous paperwork requirements (e.g., producing a birth certificate) may have achieved equality, but to achieve equity you have to give extra support to the poorest families, particularly if they have girls. This might involve offering transportation, text messages or home visits to address their needs and encourage them to go to school, providing sanitation and hygiene products, and even in-home teaching. The goal is not equality, but to “level the playing field,” so to speak, via equitable practices. In golf, giving a less-skilled player a “handicap” (i.e., extra points) makes the game equitable by counter-acting the players’ underlying inequalities of skill by introducing countervailing inequality. The poorest families, and particularly the poorest girls, need disproportionately high levels of funding and support to countervail the advantages that boys and wealthier families receive. Thus, paradoxically, equity is achieved through inequality.

UNESCO (2016) recognizes this paradox by focusing on equity for those with disabilities, language barriers, and victims of “forced displacement” (p. 271; e.g., refugees and those who have moved due to natural disasters, unfavorable political or economic climate, etc.). Someone with a language barrier, for instance, might require an interpreter to achieve equity with other students, even though this means the student receives an unequally high amount of school resources. In principle, this reminds me of the phrase popularized by Karl Marx: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” Those with more abilities produce more and should provide more for others, while those who need more due to disadvantages (e.g., poverty, disability, etc.) should receive what they need to succeed. Of course, this ideal has never been realized for humans at a wide scale, but it does summarize what equity would look like. At the same time, equity is undesirable if it results in everyone being poor or disadvantaged.

Overall, potent criticisms of the sustainable development goals are their focus on economic growth, lack of ambition and cohesiveness, and lack of sustainability with respect to earth’s resources and climate change (Koehler, 2016). One example Koehler gives of a lack of ambition in the preceding Millennium Development Goals is to reduce “at least by half, the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimension”—even when a proportional reduction would preserve the underlying unequal proportions (i.e., more women than men in poverty). Moreover, not prioritizing planetary sustainability and climate change unfairly impacts women, in part because they are more likely to work the rural farmland and fisheries that will be decimated by climate change, and also because they are more impacted by natural disasters and other ecological damage that anthropogenic climate change produces.


Koehler, G. (2016). Tapping the Sustainable Development Goals for progressive gender equity and equality policy? Gender & Development, 24, 53–68. https://doi.org/10.1080/13552074.2016.1142217

Sun, A. (2014, September 16). Equality is not enough: What the classroom has taught me about justice [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://everydayfeminism.com/2014/09/equality-is-not-enough/

UNESCO. (2015). “Chapter 5: Goal 5: Gender parity and equality.” EFA global monitoring report 2015: Education for all 2000–2015: Achievements and challenges. Retrieved from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0023/002322/232205e.pdf

UNESCO. (2016). “Chapter 14: Target 4.5: Equity.” Global education monitoring report 2016: Education for people and the planet: Creating sustainable futures for all. Retrieved from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0024/002457/245752e.pdf

United Nations. (2017). Sustainable Development Goals: 17 goals to transform our world. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/

Launching a new website on personal finance: Tippyfi

A few days ago, I started a new WordPress website called Tippyfi, with the tagline “making financial independence typical, one person at a time.” This will be a financial education website that I eventually hope to turn into a venture that provides financial advice in an innovative way. While I wrap up my Ph.D. in Education at University of Central Florida over the next 18 months, my goal is to write 100 really useful articles for the site (so far, I have three).

I have written quite a bit about personal finance here on Thripp.com, but I often write in a manner that is not accessible to the public. With Tippyfi, I am writing more accessible, edgy, image-laden pieces that develop, extend, and provide concrete examples for the financial benefit of my readers. Some of my articles will be “deep dives,” such as my new article on how credit card interest is actually calculated (hint: it’s unfavorable to the customer).

Join me over at Tippyfi as I start this new journey.

Graph of typical version of timing the market where people wait for a bigger drop, the market goes up a lot, the investor gives in and buys high, and then the market dips and the investor sells in a panic

6 Easy Ways to Finance Your Seasonal Business

Not all businesses operate with full steam around the year. There are seasonal businesses which have periods of high sales followed by lower cycles. This cyclical nature can add to the challenge of running a business – especially when it comes to financing.

Since seasonal businesses tend to have money coming in sporadically, it’s important to find ways to manage the cash flow and finance the business. The good news for anyone considering launching a seasonal business is that solutions are out there. Here are six ways to finance your seasonal business.

1. Getting a business line of credit

Seasonal businesses should consider getting a business line of credit. It allows you to draw funds against a predetermined credit line instead of receiving a lump sum such as in a traditional loan. The good analogy for a business line of credit would be to compare it to a credit card – you can use it as you need and pay only for the amount you actually use.

2. Utilising your credit card

Speaking of credit cards, special small business credit cards can be a good financing option for a seasonal business. If you are able to get a maximum credit line, it could allow your business to draw anything from a few thousand to tens of thousands. You’ll also only need to pay back what you need and the credit card will reward early repayment. The extra benefit of a business credit card can be the introduction of reward points and cash back opportunities.

3. Applying for a short term business loan

Short term loans are another good option to consider, as these loans usually allow up to 6 months to repay the loan, allowing lending of anything between a few hundred to a few thousand. The interest rates can be relatively high but short term loans don’t have strict qualifications and they can positively impact your credit score. Short term loans are a viable solution for getting past the initial cash flow hiccups.

4. Opting for invoice financing

You could also consider invoice financing. This method means financing your business using your own invoices. An invoice financing service will pay unpaid invoice into your account and your business will pay these back over the course of the next weeks. This can ensure you get a steady stream of money to finance running business needs without having to worry about when your invoices are paid.

5. Using Merchant Cash Advances (MCAs)

MCAs are another easy-to-obtain financing option. They are available for business with bad credit score and you don’t need to have any collateral to get it. You don’t have to pay at the same rate and therefore, having slower cash flow won’t necessarily hurt your repayment. However, you do need to continue paying it on a regular basis and the interest rates for MCAs can be higher than some of the other means on the list.

6. Checking out equipment financing

Finally, you might want to consider an equipment financing plan. These are suitable for seasonal businesses with valuable assets, such as cars, machinery or other such equipment. You will, essentially, receive a loan with the asset as collateral. It’s similar to a traditional loan in everything except this aspect – having your assets as the collateral and taking the risk of losing them if things don’t go according to plan.

Running a seasonal business can be trickier than launching a traditional business – there is quite a bit of risk you must manage. The highs and lows of cash flow are a challenge and they require careful attention. But you can smoothen your journey by using all or some of the above ways to finance your seasonal business.

A few thoughts on time management

Here are a few quick thoughts on time management I wrote on 2018-02-01 in response to a private discussion topic:

Time blocks are good to avoid Parkinson’s law: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” If you have two weeks to do something, even if it could be done in a day, it often ends up taking two weeks to get it done. Procrastinators like myself often wait until the last day before putting concentrated effort into meeting a deadline. However, this is obviously not ideal.

I have heard good things from productivity podcasts about the Pomodoro timer method for time-blocking your workday, but have yet to actually try it.

Of course, another critical piece is saying “no” to unnecessary distractions. For example, as a Ph.D. student I decided to give up Toastmasters, as I had been a club president and achieved many certifications there, so I felt the returns were diminishing and my time was better spent elsewhere. Life should not be looked at as a competition to impress others by being the most “busy” person. In fact, having fewer things that you do very well is usually preferable.

Writing on education, finance, psychology, et cetera