Nobel Peace Prize has a long list
of distinguished laureates that include
leaders of countries, activists for human
rights, and founders of beneficial organizations.
Bankers and banks have never been thought
of as peacemakers until now. The Bangladeshi
Yunus and his Grameen Bank have been
awarded equal share in the Nobel Peace
Prize for 2006.
The Nobel Foundation said that "Muhammad
Yunus has shown himself to be a leader
who has managed to translate visions into
practical action for the benefit of millions
of people, not only in Bangladesh, but
also in many other countries. Loans to
poor people without any financial security
had appeared to be an impossible idea."
Through using microcredit, the Bangladeshi
economist has opened up doors for people
that had previously struggled to put food
on the table. Microcredit or microfinance
is a system where small amounts of money
are lent out to impoverished and often
illiterate people that were previously
shunned by normal banks. Yunus and his
Grameen Bank have lent out more than $5.7
billion since starting back in the 1970s.
The Grameen Bank began in 1976 after Yunus
saw much human suffering from a 1974 drought
and a financial system that did not benefit
the neediest of people. It started with
the financial support of the central bank
in Bangladesh, before becoming an independent
bank in 1983.
Yunus found the poor people that did try
to borrow money had to deal with loan
sharks that had ludicrous conditions which
could easily lead to being enslaved by
the money lender if payments were not
kept up. Muhammad Yunus started by making
a list of 42 people that were indebted
to these loan sharks, lending them the
money they owed, and telling them to repay
the loans when they could afford to.
This first act of helping those 42 people
living in poverty to stand on their own
feet has led to a giant financial corporation
benefiting millions of people every year.
More than ninety percent of its borrowers
are poor women with little education and
very few assets. In a Muslim country of
roughly 140 million people, where half
the people live in poverty, Yunus chose
to focus his efforts on the women as he
found they were more determined to lift
their family out of poverty.
His pioneering system of Microcredit lending
has been praised and adopted in countries
all over the world with similar problems.
Yunus says that his country has been reducing
the amount of people living in poverty
by two percent each year since the year
"I did something that challenged
the banking world. Conventional banks
look for the rich; we look for the absolutely
poor. All people are entrepreneurs, but
many don't have the opportunity to find
that out." Muhammad
In reply to those that cannot see the
connection between peace and a banking
system that benefits the poor, the Nobel
Peace Prize committee has this to say;
"Lasting peace cannot be achieved
unless large population groups find ways
in which to break out of poverty. Microcredit
is one such means. Development from below
also serves to advance democracy and human
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