NINE YEARS ago Selina Akter was in a sorry state. She had eloped and gone to live with her husband in Charmotto, a village west of Dhaka in Bangladesh. But he was able to find only poorly paying casual work, and, because of the elopement, her family had disowned her. The couple had entered the ranks of the “ultra-poor”—the most indigent group of all who are barely able to feed themselves.
Ms Akter came to the attention of BRAC, a charity so ubiquitous in Bangladesh that in some rural areas you see one of its pink-and-white signs every few miles. BRAC made her an offer she could hardly refuse. It would give her a cow and visit once a week to teach her about animal husbandry as well as the importance of saving money and the evils of child marriage. To ensure she got enough to eat, the charity would give her lentils and a small cash stipend.
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