We Are Not Able to Live in the Sky: The Seductive Promise of Microfinance

Written by:
Mara Kardas-Nelson
Narrated by:
Nene Nwoko

Unabridged Audiobook

Release Date
June 2024
17 hours 6 minutes
In the mid-1970s, Muhammad Yunus, an American-trained Bangladeshi economist, met a poor female stool maker who needed money to expand her business. In an act known as the beginning of microfinance, Yunus lent $27 to forty-two women, hoping small credit would help them to pull themselves out of poverty. Soon, Yunus's Grameen Bank was born, and very small, often high-interest loans for poor people took off. But there are mounting concerns that these small loans are as likely to bury poor people in debt as they are to pull them from poverty, with borrowers facing consequences such as jail time and forced land sales. Hundreds have even reportedly committed suicide. Did microfinance take a wrong turn, or was it flawed from the beginning?

Mara Kardas-Nelson's We Are Not Able to Live in the Sky is a story about unintended consequences, blind optimism, and the decades-long ramifications of seemingly small policy choices. The book is rooted in the stories of women borrowers in Sierra Leone, West Africa, whose narratives are set against the rise of Yunus's vision that tiny loans would 'put poverty in museums,' as well as a deep history of modern international development. Kardas-Nelson asks: What is missed with a single, financially-focused solution to global inequity that ignores the real drivers of poverty? Who stands to benefit and, more important, who gets left behind?
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