Promoting Peace, a Hope at a Time


In an astonishing moment of clarity, the Nobel Peace Prize
was given this year, not to the current excuse for Henry Kissinger, but
to a man who understands the very basis and structure of peace.

I find that principles have no real force
except when one is well fed.
-MarkTwain (1835-1910)

Yunusnobel
In an astonishing moment of clarity, the Nobel Peace Prize
was given this year, not to the current excuse for Henry Kissinger, but
to a man who understands the very basis and structure of peace.
Muhammed Yunus had an idea some thirty years ago and reached into his
pocket to prove his thesis.
Yunus told The Associated Press in 2004 that his eureka moment came
while chatting to a shy Bangladeshi  woman weaving bamboo stools with calloused
fingers.

Sufia Begum was a 21-year-old mother of three when he met her in 1974
and asked how much she earned. She replied that she borrowed about five
taka, the equivalent of nine cents, from a middleman for the bamboo for
each stool. All but two cents of that went back to the lender.

”I thought to myself, my God, for five takas she has become a slave,”
Yunus said in the interview. The following day, he and his students did a survey in the woman’s
village, Jobra, and discovered that 43 villagers owed a total of $27.

”I couldn’t take it anymore. I put the $27 out there and told them
they could liberate themselves,”
he said, and pay him back whenever
they could. The idea was to buy their own materials and cut out the
middleman.
Over the following year, they all paid him back–day by day.

Yunusborrower2
And thus was founded the Grameen (Rural) Bank. Other banks told Yunus
he was a madman, that loaning without collateral would result in loans
going bad, people walking away from their obligations. But conventional
banks (and bankers) were not alone among those hostile to providing
capital to the poor.


“The first hostile person to our program is the husband. We are
challenging his authority,”
Yunus said as we walked around Kashipur,
where water buffalo lumbered down dirt paths alongside women barking
Bengali into the cell phones they had bought with small loans from his
bank.

“In the family, he’s a macho tyrant,”
Yunus said. “He starts to see
that she’s not as stupid as he thought. He says, `Now she cannot nag me
about money, because she understands now how hard it is to make.’ The
tension eases and they become a team.”

Yunusborrower
Almost six billion dollars later and five million loans down the road less traveled,
this amazing man and his Grameen Bank have been recognized in a forum
better known than winning an Oscar. The Nobel Committee will have a
tough time keeping up in future years to the inherent truths behind
2006’s choice—that the world is most changed by small experiments.

(New
York Times) Yunus’ notion — today, known as microcredit — has spread
around the globe in the past three decades and is said to have helped
more than 100 million people take their first steps to rise out of
poverty.

Some bought diary cows, others egg-laying hens. In
recent years, money for a single cell phone has been enough to start
thriving enterprises in isolated villages without phone lines from East
Asia to West Africa.

The Nobel Committee in their statement of the award, said from Oslo, Norway,

”Lasting
peace cannot be achieved unless large population groups find ways in
which to break out of poverty, ‘Micro-credit is one such means.
Development from below also serves to advance democracy and human
rights.”

How often (if ever) do you hear of ordinary people being personally thrilled by the award?

”I can’t express in words how happy I am,” said
Gulbadan Nesa, 40, who five years ago used $90 from the Grameen Bank to
buy chickens so she could sell eggs. She’s since taken more loans and
expanded into selling building materials.
”Not long ago I was almost begging for money to feed my family,” she said from Bishnurampur, her village in northern Bangladesh. ”Today, I’ve got my own house and enough money to feed my children and send them to school.”

(Washington
Post) Yunus and the Grameen Bank are hardly household names outside of
Bangladesh, but Yunus has been one of the world’s most prominent and
renowned leaders of poverty alleviation. The Grameen Bank model has been duplicated in more than 100 countries, from Uganda to Malaysia to Chicago’s South Side.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation recognized the bank’s efforts
in August, providing a $1.5 million grant to expand its work worldwide
through the Grameen Foundation.
Yunusbook
A gentle, soft-spoken man who has been feted by kings and presidents
for his groundbreaking and tireless efforts to improve the lives of
poor families, Yunus nonetheless has remained most at ease in the
steamy Bangladeshi villages where the bank’s clients — mostly
sari-clad women — line up at makeshift tables to repay their loans.
Quite an interesting comparison to the World Bank, whose business is
to loan money to governments, most of which supports unending poverty
and a good deal of which is never repaid. The bankers who cautioned
Yunus would be well enough pleased to have a repayment rate that
mirrored his 99%.
The Nobel is coming of age.
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Lots of comment out there in the newspapers;

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