Micro credit: Taking out a loan on population

provided by the Sierra Club

he Micro-Credit for Self-Sufficiency Act of 1998 (S. 2152) was introduced in the Senate by Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) on June 11. This bill calls for $160 million in small loans for low-income people to borrow to start income-generating projects. At least $80 million of the loans will be channeled to the poorest citizens in the country. The Sierra Club's International Population Campaign is supporting this bill as part of a comprehensive approach to empowering women and ensuring a stable population level.

According to the 1997 United Nations Development Report, women comprise 2/3 of the poorest citizens in each country. Supporting women's efforts to achieve economic self-sufficiency also helps to slow population growth. Women who are earning an income often choose to have smaller families, have more ability to pay for their own family-planning needs, and choose to send their sons and daughters to school, which often leads to greater spacing between generations an important component of slowing population growth globally.

In his introductory remarks, Senator Durbin emphasized the connections between economic self-sufficiency and stabilizing population globally. He told the story of a Bangladeshi woman he met who was had received a small loan from Bangladesh's Grameen Bank. The woman was, at age 18, the mother of three children. The woman stated that she was not going to have any more children because her first two children were healthy and the bank loan provided her with the opportunity to improve the quality of life for her family.

Senator Durbin states, "A tiny loan of $100, a family planning program, some public health techniques and this woman is going to limit her family to three. Is that important to us in the United States? It is, because in Asia, in Africa and around the world, the problem of overpopulation is one that is not local or regional, it is a global problem. Overpopulation leads to many problems economic instability, political instability, environmental degradation."

Senator Durbin added that investment in programs like micro-credit can really improve the quality of live in low income countries and help ameliorate problems like population growth. As of June 11, the Micro-Credit bill had 23 cosponsors in the Senate. For a full list of cosponsors, contact Marceline White via email at marceline.whitesierraclub.org.