{ brad brace } on Sun, 15 Oct 2006 16:02:43 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Dr. Mohammed Yunus (Bangladesh) awarded Nobel Peace Prize

"We believe that poverty does not belong to a civilized
human society. It belongs to museums."

"All human beings have an innate skill - survival skill. The
fact that poor are still alive is a proof of their ability
to survive. We do not need to teach them how to survive.
They know this already. " This firm faith in basic human
ability drove the man, named Mohammad Yunus, to turn a dream
called 'Grameen Bank' into a $2.5 billion (US) reality.

Dr. Mohammad Yunus was born to a well-to-do family in
Chittagong, a business center in Bangladesh, in 1940. His
father was a successful goldsmith who always encouraged his
sons to seek higher education. But his biggest influence was
his mother, Sofia Khatun, who always helped any poor that
knocked on their door. This inspired him to commit himself
to eradication of poverty.

Dr. Yunus lives modestly in a two-bedroom apartment at
Grameen Banks headquarters in Dhaka, Bangladesh with his
physicist wife, Afrozi and their daughter Deena.

Yunus was an outstanding student who won a Fullbright
Fellowship to do PhD at Vanderbilt University in Nashville,
Tennessee in 1965. He returned home in 1972 to become the
head of the economics department at the Chittagong
University. He found the situation in newly independent
Bangladesh worsening day by day. The terrible famine of 1974
in Bangladesh changed his life forever. He thought that
while people were dying of hunger on the streets, he was
teaching elegant theories of economics. He felt the
inadequacies of elegant theories of economics and decided to
make the poor his teachers. He began to study them and
question them on their lives. One day, interviewing a woman
who made bamboo stools, he learnt that, because she had no
capital of her own, she had to give up more than 93% of her
proceeds to the middleman. Dr. Yunus identified the problem
as one of structure. Lack of credit to the poor. He thinks
that people are poor today because of the failure of the
financial institutions to support them in the past. Thus the
idea of micro-credit was born. The idea is terribly simple
and in the area of development and aid completely

The Grameen Bank (in Bengali, Grameen means rural) which Dr.
Yunus has built over the last 22 years, is today the largest
rural bank in Bangladesh. It has over 2 million borrowers
and works in 35000 villages in a country of 68000 villages.
94 % of its borrowers are women. The bank is based on
simple, sensible rules, meticulous organization, imagination
and peer pressure among borrowers. The break that Grameen
Bank offers is a collateral-free loan, sometimes equivalent
to just a few U.S. dollars and rarely more than $100. In
rural areas, it makes things happen. 98% of its loans are
honored. Thus he has turned into reality a philosophy that
the poorest of the poor are the most deserving in the land
and that given the opportunity they can lift themselves out
of the mire of poverty. His ideas combine capitalism with
social responsibility.

Micro-credit concept is now being practiced in 58 countries.
In the US, it is a success even with the Shifting poor of
Chicago's toughest districts. The United States alone has
over 500 Grameen spin-offs. Bill Clinton said in his
election campaign that Yunus deserved a Nobel Peace Prize
and cited the Experiment of Dr. Yunus as a model for
rebuilding the inner cities of America. Pilot projects are
starting in Britain. The methods are adapted to suit local
conditions, but the principle of empowering individuals with
their own capital is the same.

Professor Yunus has received honorary doctorate from many
Universities in the United States, Canada, England and many
other countries. The World Bank has made him the head of
advisory committee to propagate his vision worldwide. The
countless prizes he has been awarded include The World Food
Prize, the highest honor of the Rotary International, "Award
for World Understanding" and Care Humanitarian Award. Asia
Week magazine called him one of the 25 most influential
Asians. New York Times hailed him as the star of the UN's
women's conference.

The Grameen activity has branched into non-banking
activities like venture capital, textile industry, Internet
and cellular phone service etc.

Dr. Yunus has set his sights on the total eradication of
poverty from the world. World's leaders are starting to take
him seriously.



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