By Waliur Rahman
BBC News, Dhaka
One of the world's biggest financial companies is taking part in a special project which aims to help lift Bangladeshi beggars out of poverty.
Project Dignity will give beggars interest-free small loans
The Citigroup Foundation, part of the US-based firm Citigroup, has launched the project with Bangladesh's Grameen Bank, a micro-credit organisation.
The Citigroup Foundation will finance Project Dignity for three years to the tune of $250,000.
Half of Bangladesh's 150 million people earn less than $1 a day.
The Grameen Trust - a sister concern of Grameen Bank - will implement the project by giving beggars small loans, ranging from 100 taka ($1.44) to 3,000 taka ($44) through its affiliated agencies.
Citigroup's country officer in Bangladesh, Mamun Rashid, said about 2,500 beggars would be brought into a flexible micro-credit network in the first phase of the project.
He pledged to raise credit support further if the project proved successful in helping alleviate poverty.
"Micro credit has been proven to be an effective means of eradicating poverty and we are very optimistic about the project's success, reaching the poorest bottom part of the pyramid," he said.
Under the project, small interest-free loans will be provided, and training imparted in basic literacy and financial education, to help members understand their loan terms and financial obligations.
The borrowers will also be given interest-free loans to set up income-generating activities such as processing and manufacturing food and selling fruits, vegetables and cloths.
Half of Bangladesh's population live on $1 a day
"We just want to get the beggars involved in productive work," Mr Rashid said.
The managing director of Grameen Trust, HI Latifee, said the loans would be disbursed within the next three months and the borrowers would choose areas for investment.
"The project has been designed to enable them to develop an alternative source of income away from begging and give them a sense of self-respect and confidence and attempt to graduate them to a dignified life," he said.
Grameen Bank has already launched a project for beggars in Bangladesh with its own resources, but this is the first time that a big foreign company has become involved in such activities.