A group of 58 women leaders and professionals yesterday condemned the government move to amend the Grameen Bank Ordinance, saying it would deprive its real owners of their role in managing their bank.
"We are deeply shocked and saddened by the government moves to amend the Grameen Bank Ordinance," they said in a statement under a banner of Friends of Grameen.
Their comments came nearly a week after the cabinet division approved the government proposals to bring changes to the Grameen Bank Ordinance, 1983, that governs the activities of the microlender.
On August 2, the cabinet approved the proposals to give more power to the Grameen Bank chairman to choose the managing director of the microlender.
The post of the managing director fell vacant after Prof Muhammad Yunus was forced to step down as its chief executive by the central bank in May last year.
Ninety-seven percent of Grameen Bank is owned by poor women. The government owns a mere 3 percent of the bank.
“The proposed amendment would enable the government-appointed chairman to appoint the managing director of the bank,” said the women leaders and professionals in the statement.
"This represents a de facto imposition of government control on the bank; in other words, the poor women, who are also its owners, are being deprived of their right to manage their own bank and are being made powerless."
"This must be stopped at the earliest," they said.
Owned by impoverished women, Grameen Bank is unique in the world, they said. Representatives of the 8.3 million women borrowers sit on the board of the bank and have participated over the years in its decision making, something that has not happened with any other bank in the world.
Of the 12 members on the board, nine are women members of Grameen Bank and the other three including the chairman are government nominees.
The women leaders and professionals said the government's proposed amendment has the effect of allowing the chairman to take undemocratic decisions, overriding the views of the majority of the board who are the women representing its borrowers.
Under the changes being brought to the ordinance, the Grameen Bank chairman--instead of the board as originally provided--would form a selection committee in consultation with the board for selecting the bank's managing director. The chairman will also be able to select a three-member panel for the appointment of the managing director.
"Through this amendment, the government aims to deny the owners of Grameen Bank their right to have a say in the management of their bank," said the statement.
The statement said the power to appoint managing director of any bank lies with its board of directors. In the case of Grameen Bank, by investing the chairman with the power to appoint the managing director, the government will have created an example that is partisan in nature.
"We condemn this government action and urge all conscientious citizens to call upon the government to refrain from this action of taking over the bank and thereby jeopardising its future and depriving the majority board members of their role in decision making."
The signatories are: Taherunessa Abdullah, Khadija Afzal, Dilruba Ahmed Dr Julia Ahmed, Farida Akther, Quazi Sufia Akthar, Shaheen Anam, Dr Tasnim Azim, Ferdous Ara Begum, Maleka Begum, Selina Begum, Dr Rabia Bhuiyan, Prof. Najma Chowhdury, Rasheda K. Chowdhury, Rubina Farouq, Zeenat Fatima, Naseema Haider, Syeda Rizwana Hasan, Hafiza Momtaz Hashi, Gazi Shamima Hossain, Hameeda Hossain, Sara Hossain, Tasmima Hossain, Afroze Huda, Dr Shahnaz Huda, Sigma Huda, Shireen Huq, Sabrina Islam, Laila Jalal, Farah Kabir, Khushi Kabir, Rokeya Kabir, Dr Zarina Nahar Kabir, Professor Nashid Kamal, Sultana Kamal, Dr Sumaiya Khair, Moushumi Khan, Salma Khan, Dr Faustina Perera, Sayeeda Roxana Khan, Shamima Khan, Mahera Khatun, Rowshan Ara Mahmud, Simeen Mahmud, Najma Masud, Amena Mohsin, Sharmeen Murshid, Razia Quader, Nasreen Rab, Jowshan Ara Rahman, Rokia Afzal Rahman, Syeda A. Roxana, Anuza Seidl,Najma Siddiqi, Aklima Sultana, Rokeya Sultana, Tahera Yasmin, Dr Sultana Alam.