The World Bank is often in the news, but not always for reasons it might like. The official name is the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
In recent years, its big meetings at its headquarters in Washington have become the target of anti-globalization protesters. Its lending policies and support for free trade are criticized. Environmental activists have objected to its financing of dams and some other projects.
But supporters say the World Bank Group and its member organizations are making progress in reducing poverty. One of the members is the International Finance Corporation. The I.F.C. helps private businesses in developing countries.
In February, its directors approved new environmental and social requirements to replace existing ones for projects it finances. There are new requirements for community health, safety, and security as well as labor conditions and pollution prevention, among others.
A major program of the International Finance Corporation is the Grassroots Business Initiative, headed by Harold Rosen.
Mister Rosen tells us that the program helps bridge developing economies and the international marketplace. It seeks to strengthen small businesses through technical assistance. They might also receive financing. Mister Rosen says the Grassroots Business Initiative is socially driven, because the aim is to help people most in need.
|Tableware by Gone Rural|
Among the businesses in the program is an African company called Gone Rural. It employs about seven hundred women in Swaziland. They make baskets, table items and other goods from natural materials. Today, their products are sold in about thirty-five countries around the world.
Each woman supports, on average, eight other people. So the company is said to have an influence in society. Gone Rural educates the women about AIDS and H.I.V., the virus that causes it. An estimated forty percent of Swazi adults are infected with H.I.V.
Mister Rosen says a store opening soon in Washington will sell items from Gone Rural. It will also sell goods from other businesses supported by the International Finance Corporation. Suppliers must guarantee that their goods are produced without child labor or environmental harm.
The Pangea Artisan Market and Cafe will sell items from Africa, Asia and Latin America.
This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss. Read and listen to our reports at voaspecialenglish.com. I’m Shep O'Neal.