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  • Village Phones Print
    The concept of Village Phone is an idea which caught people's imagination. Grameen Bank members have entered the age of information technology by leasing and purchasing cellular phones. The mobile phones not only create a new business opportunity for the poor, but also bring access to information, market, health and other services to the remote rural areas of Bangladesh. With Grameen Bank financing a Grameen Bank Borrower buys a mobile phone to become the Telephone Lady of the village. She provides the telecommunication services to the village while earning profits for herself. By the end of 2005, there were more than one hundred eighty-seven thousand village phone ladies who have together taken loans amounting to Tk. 1,743.56 million.
    The demand of the Village Phone services is increasing day by day. During the year nearly 95,000 new phones were distributed and connections were provided to as many cell phones in the villages. Grameen Bank, in collaboration with Grameen Telecom, a not-for-profit company, has made a plan to finance nearly 1,00,000 new phones to its members during the next year.
    The additional income by selling telephone services of village phone ladies is almost double that of the national per capita income. Zonewise statistics of village phones financed through the Bank’s lending programme are given the following pages.
    Progress of Village Phones up to December, 2005.
    Zone Number of Number of Village Branches Phones owned by Bank Members
    Chittagong 89 9,030
    Tangail 78 6,916
    Rangpur 86 7,888
    Dhaka 80 12,823
    Patuakhali 67 4,585
    Bogra 80 9,776
    Sylhet 60 10,366
    Rajshahi 100 15,421
    Dinajpur 70 5,921
    Faridpur 85 9,755
    Comilla 74 10,667
    Mymensingh 74 11,819
    Narayanganj 79 14,139
    Khulna 82 7,510
    Noakhali 88 13,080
    Jamalpur 56 6,712
    Nilphamari 52 4,639
    Habiganj 44 5,534
    Pabna 58 7,521
    Barisal 86 4,857
    Jhenaidah 78 8,228
    Total 1,566 187,187
    Village Phone has restored the social dignity of Maran, a crippled beggar
    Manikganj District. He lost his father at the age of three. He, along with his two brothers, was living in a joint family. Financially, they were reasonably solvent. One day, about ten years ago, Maran suffered a cut in his ankle while he was working in the paddy field. It led to serious infection. Gradually, his condition worsened and finally he had the leg amputated. It was the beginning of a miserable life. Once a jovial and energetic person, he was plunged into utter grief and frustration. The burden of life began to weigh too heavy on his shoulders. Amid all these, he had to get married to fulfill his aged mother’s last wish. His father-in-law was a poor and helpless man. Meanwhile, the family expenditure was increasing all the time. As a result, Maran was forced out of the family. He was facing an uphill struggle to survive with his wife. Finding no other alternative, he was forced to resort to begging.
    With the passage of time, he became a father of two children. He always cherished a desire to educate his children and bring them up as decent human beings.
    One day, he became a member of Grameen Bank’s Katigram Manikganj Branch under its Struggling Members Programme in December 2003.

    He received Tk 1,000 as an interest-free loan from the Bank and started his vegetable business in the Katigram market. Somehow, he was making both ends meet with his business and occasional begging. Then he started dreaming of having a phone under Grameen Bank’s Polly Phone/Village Phone Programme. His dream turned into reality within a few days. In September 2004, Mr. Dipal Chandra Barua, Deputy Managing Director of Grameen Bank, officially handed over a village phone to Maran in a function attended by senior officials of the Bank, journalists, local Chairman and respected persons of the locality. With the phone in his hand, a delighted Maran expressed his feelings, “I am a mere crippled beggar, and Sir has given me a phone! I am feeling like having the Aladdin’s lamp in my hand!”

    The income from village phone made rapid improvements in his living standards. He got the opportunity to repay the interest-free loan in instalments, which he took to buy the phone. Every week he is repaying Tk 100 as loan instalment and every month he is earning Tk 2,500 to 3,000. Alongside this, he is doing his vegetable business in the weekly village market earning around Tk 50 each week. After meeting all expenses, he has been able to build up a deposit balance of Tk 15,000 in the Bank as savings. Now he is dreaming of having his own grocery shop, with his savings, in which he will also carry on with his village phone business. This has been a remarkable turnaround in the fortune of Maran. Grameen Bank has made it possible for Maran to break free from abject poverty and lead a dignified social life with his head held high.
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