The Grameen Bank in Bangladesh has lent $2 billion to Bangladeshi women in the form of small business loans, usually of $100 or less. This remarkable documentary explores the human face of this micro-lending experiment that has transformed the lives of millions of Third-World women and their families.
The film focuses on the everyday life of of 18-year-old Selina, a mother of two. She was forced into child labor at age seven because her parents were too poor to feed her. Her parents arranged her marriage at age twelve and sold their land for dowry, leaving themselves as beggars when her father lost his eyesight. Now Selina is one of 2.5 million impoverished Bangladeshi women who are reshaping their lives and building a stronger rural economy through small businesses they start with loans (in Selina’s case, of $60) from the Grameen Bank. As the film captures the seemingly endless drudgery of her life, Selina reflects on key issues facing her, such as dowry, birth control, education, housing, and her children’s futures. Selina’s endurance through enormous hardships and her irrepressible hope create an unforgettable portrait of risk-taking, struggle, and activism.
“Sixteen Decisions” refers to a 16-point social charter developed by poor Bangladeshi women and instituted by the Grameen Bank to encourage fundamental community and personal change. The charter encourages discipline, unity, courage, and hard work in all aspects of the women’s lives, promotes such social changes as the end of the dowry system and child marriages and the institution of universal childhood education, and calls for the women to practice birth control, keep their children and the environment clean, grow and eat vegetables year-round, and purify the water they drink. Grameen Bank founder Dr. Muhammad Yunus provides commentary on the bank’s policies and economic and social vision, and articulates the widespread changes wrought by its micro-lending practices.
“Sixteen Decisions” will generate discussion in a variety of classes in women’s studies, anthropology, economics, development issues, and Asian studies. It was produced by Gayle Ferraro.