Salma Awwal Shafi

Ashoka Fellow
Dhaka, Bangladesh
Fellow Since 1995


This profile was prepared when Salma Awwal Shafi was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1995.
The New Idea
Salma Shafi has created a system for slum tenants and landlords to work together to create decent housing in Dhaka, one of the fastest growing cities in the world, by means of credit from the formal banking system. Her work utilizes the now widely copied Grameen Bank "group peer collateral" technique, in which the borrowers of a loan are collectively responsible to pay it back; but the landlords also put up the land as collateral. This "double collateral" has proved to be sufficient inducement to draw in the commercial banks, a major breakthrough. Her work is well-timed; financing for private housing has long been largely unavailable in Asia, even though it is the chief form of saving for urban dwellers.All of the elements of Salma's scheme were ready for her to tap: landlords who wished to upgrade their properties but lacked the capital to do so; working-poor tenants who were highly motivated to improve their housing; and a credit system that had observed successful loans being made to poor people. She is providing the crucial link among them and teaching people who have never before secured credit how to work with the banking system. Salma believes that without adequate shelter the urban poor will never be able to profit fully from development; she has set up a system that can be broadly used by urban populations in order to secure that foundation.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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