Yunus wins the heart of American nation

Munir Quddus

In a festive ceremony on April 17, 2013, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Professor Muhammad Yunus, was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, considered the highest civilian award instituted by the US. The award-giving ceremony took place in the large hall beneath the dome, or the rotunda, in the Unites States Capitol building in the nation's capital, Washington DC. The Democratic and the Republican leaders were present on the stage along with a large number of distinguished personalities and ordinary citizens - all admirers of Prof Yunus and his works in alleviating poverty in his home, Bangladesh, and globally. Adding to the grandeur of the occasion, his daughter, Monica Yunus, lovingly sang the famous song, 'A beautiful dreamer.'

A number of Congressional leaders spoke glowingly of Mr. Yunus's work and his thinking. Senator Durbin said that anyone could come with a complicated model, but only a genius like Mr Yunus can come with a simple idea that can change the lives of millions. A speaker said that Prof Yunus was more than just a dreamer - he was 'a doer and a man of action'. Another described him as a banker, and a revolutionary, the two words that seldom go together. His ideas are so revolutionary that these have caused a tsunami of positive change, and the world is better off today for this change. Senator Reed described him as a unique businessman - one who was not interested in profits, but in lifting people out of poverty.

The leaders with very different ideologies and ideas on the role of government and free markets, found many praiseworthy common aspects of micro-credit and social businesses - the two ideas Mr. Yunus is best known for. While the Democrats tended to emphasise its positive impact on women, and the notion that capitalism does not have to make only a few businessman rich, rather it can very well be an agent for social change, the Republicans spoke of micro-credit's role in creating entrepreneurs, strengthening free markets, and changing individual lives, and thus the world.

Congressman Rush Holt, a long-time supporter, has worked with members of RESULTS, a citizens' advocacy group which has worked passionately over the years to introduce Prof Yunus and micro-credit to the Senators and the Congressmen making this day possible. Mr. Holt in his remarks said the 'good professor' has been confounding pundits for years and critics still disbelieve him. He has demonstrated his ideas work since he has produced uncommon results, but many still fail to take his ideas seriously. Senator Durbin of Illinois, a co-sponsor of the bill in the Senate, spoke of his visits to villages in Uganda and other countries, where women told him personal stories how microfinance had empowered them to overthrow the shackles of tradition. Micro-credit has been a game changer for millions of poor women.

Minority leader Nancy Pelosi focused her remarks on the importance of micro-credit and social business on women's liberation and emancipation. She said the highest compliment she can give Prof Yunus is that he is a 'disruptor,' someone whose ideas and work have completely upended the status quo. His ideas and work have revolutionised and disrupted the traditional old-fashioned conventional wisdom for the greater good. Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, spoke of how Mr. Yunus' work has created millions of women entrepreneurs, freed many from the 'prison of poverty.' The host, Speaker Boehner said the professor's ideas have allowed people to take their lives in their hands instead of looking up to the government for handouts. He pointed out that microfinance is now a cornerstone of the US international aid policies.

In his acceptance remarks, Prof Yunus thanked the American legislators and the citizens for the high honour bestowed upon him - and accepted the award for every citizen of Bangladesh. He spoke of his first visit to this historic building nearly 42 years ago when Bangladesh was in the throes of a violent liberation struggle. Leaving his job as a university professor, he had gone there as a complete novice to plead the case of the people of Bangladesh with the legislators. Now he has returned as a proud citizen of Bangladesh - a nation that was once given up as a 'basket case,' but one that has confounded all predictions and is well-positioned to achieve the UN Millennium Development goals by 2015. He recognised his family and supporters, and ended with a resounding call for action. The motto 'We will send poverty to the museum' that is engraved in Bengali on the back of the gold medal, he said half seriously, reflects an endorsement by the US Congress. However, he was serious when he concluded that poverty is created not by the poor but by the system we have built and if we intend to change the system, we can do away with poverty and unemployment. We are only limited by our imagination, he remarked.

The formal occasion was followed by a reception where guests were able to meet one on one with the distinguished professor. I met an astronaut and his wife from Houston who had visited Bangladesh on a number of occasions to participate in the Grameen Bank programmes. The Voice of America Bangla and Thikana from New York were present representing the media. When Prof Yunus finally arrived at the reception, the audience burst out in adulation. It was unclear who was happier.

He delighted many with hugs and handshakes, and many pictures were taken, some instantly posted on Facebook and other social media, traveling across continents and time zones. The next programme was a lecture he delivered at Georgetown University where the University President welcomed him. Later, the United Nations Foundation and RESULTS hosted a reception in the Rayburn House where Prof Yunus introduced the entire Grameen Bank team including the current and former Managing Directors, and other senior staff. A number of Congressmen and Congresswomen spoke on the occasion including the leader of the Bangladesh caucus in the US Congress. It was a wonderful day for Professor Yunus, the Grameen Bank and for Bangladesh.

Source: The Financial Express
Published on: Sunday, 21 April 2013

Yunus dedicates US Congressional Gold Medal to the people of Bangladesh

Munir Quddus

pyunusWORLD renowned Bangladeshi economist, Professor Muhammad Yunus, was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in a joyous and glittering ceremony on April 17. The occasion took place in the large hall beneath the Dome, or the Rotunda, in the Unites States Capitol building in Washington DC. Democratic and the Republican leaders were present, along with a large number of distinguished personalities and ordinary citizens — all admirers of Prof. Yunus and his life work in alleviating poverty in his home, Bangladesh, and globally. Adding to the occasion, his daughter, Monica Yunus, sang the famous song “A beautiful dreamer.”

Former speaker Nancy Pelosi said that Prof. Yunus was not only one of very few who had won the US President’s Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal, and the Nobel Prize, he was also the first Muslim to win the Congressional Gold Medal. The Medal’s antecedents go back to the American Revolution, when George Washington became the first person to be honoured with this award in 1776.

With his family and friends watching, Prof Yunus humbly accepted the award on behalf of the 160 million citizens of Bangladesh. He said he could hardly contain his tears of joy and felt immensely blessed for the honour.

A number of congressional leaders spoke glowingly of Prof. Yunus’s work. Senator Durbin said that anyone could come with a complicated model, but only a genius like Yunus could come up with a simple idea that would change the lives of millions. A speaker said that Prof. Yunus was more than just a dreamer, he was a doer and a man of action. Another speaker described him as a banker and a revolutionary — two words that seldom go together. His ideas are so revolutionary that they have caused a tsunami of positive change, and the world is better for this change. Senator Reed described him as a unique businessman, one who was not interested in profits, but in lifting people out of poverty.

What was amazing was that these leaders, with very different ideologies and ideas on the role of government and free markets, found many praiseworthy aspects of

microcredit and social business — the two ideas Prof. Yunus is best known for. While democrats tended to emphasise the positive impact on women, and the notion that capitalism did not have to make only a few businessman rich, rather it could very well be an agent for social change, the Republicans spoke of microcredit’s role in creating entrepreneurs, strengthening free markets, and changing individual lives, and thus the world.

What an occasion! I found that the security was tight, as expected, but the staff and the guards were friendly. Even though the lines were long on this beautiful spring morning sporting cherry blossoms and trees full of flowers in the nation’s capital, the mood was festive. I spoke to a number of guests who had travelled from Texas, California and New York. We all eagerly exchanged stories connecting the man and his work. The ceremony started with prayers offered by the Chaplain, who prayed movingly for the honouree’s long life and continued success.

In the audience I spotted the former president of Mexico, Vicente Fox, among other dignitaries. Also present were a large number of Bangladeshi Americans, staff members of the Grameen Bank who had travelled with Dr. Yunus, his family members, friends and admirers. The colours and dresses were beautiful and global — women in saris, some with scarves, men in suits, a few in punjabi and kurta as sported by Prof. Yunus, along with men in the army, navy and air force uniforms.

Congressman Rush Holt, a long time supporter, has worked with members of RESULTS, a citizen’s advocacy group which has worked passionately over the years to introduce Prof. Yunus and microcredit to the Senators and Congressmen, making this day possible. Mr. Holt said that the good professor had been confounding pundits for years and critics still disbelieved him. He has demonstrated that his ideas work since he has produced uncommon results, but many still fail to take his ideas seriously. Senator Durbin of Illinois, a co-sponsor of the Bill in the Senate, spoke of his visits to villages in Uganda and other countries, where women told him personal stories of how microfinance had empowered them to overthrow the shackles of tradition. Microcredit has been a game changer for millions of poor women.

Minority leader Nancy Pelosi focused her remarks on the importance of microcredit and social business on women’s liberation and emancipation. She said the highest compliment she could give Prof. Yunus was that he was a “disruptor,” someone whose ideas and work have completely upended the status quo. His ideas and work have revolutionised and disrupted the traditional old fashioned conventional wisdom, for the greater good. Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, spoke of how Prof. Yunus’ work had created millions of women entrepreneurs, and freed many from the “prison of poverty.” The host, Speaker John Boehner, said that the professor’s ideas had allowed people to take their lives in their own hands, instead of looking up to the government for handouts. He pointed out that microfinance was now a cornerstone of US international aid policies.

In his acceptance speech, Prof. Yunus thanked the American legislators for the high honour bestowed upon him, and accepted the award as an honour not just for him as an individual, but also for all of Bangladesh. He spoke of his first visit to this historic building nearly forty two years ago when Bangladesh was in the throes of a violent liberation struggle. Leaving his job as a university professor, he had come here as a complete novice to plead the case of the people of Bangladesh with the legislators, and to oppose Pakistan’s military regime that had unleashed death and destruction on the people. The legislators were very understanding, even through the official US policy at the time was not in favour of the Bangladeshi struggle.

Now he had returned as a proud citizen of Bangladesh — a nation that was once given up as a “basket case,” but one that has confounded all predictions and is well positioned to achieve the UN Millennium Development goals by 2015.

He thanked his family and supporters, and ended with a resounding call for action. The motto “we will send poverty to the museum,” that is engraved in Bengali on the back of the gold medal, reflects an endorsement by the US Congress, he later joked. However, he was serious when he concluded that poverty was created not by the poor but by the system we had built and if we could change the system, we could do away with poverty and unemployment. He urged all to join the struggle as much work remained to be done.

Source: The Daily Star

Yunus Calls for End to Global Poverty

By Sarah Patrick
Hoya Staff Writer

Published: Thursday, April 18, 2013
Updated: Thursday, April 18, 2013 23:04

the-hoyaBangladeshi Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Grameen Bank founder Muhammad Yunus discussed his lifelong goal of reducing global poverty and promoting economic and social opportunities Wednesday afternoon.

Speaking to a packed crowd of students and dignitaries — including former President of Kyrgyzstan Roza Otunbayeva and former first lady of South Africa Thobeka Madiba-ZumaYunus graced Gaston Hall for the fourth time, shortly after receiving the Congressional Gold Medal for pioneering efforts to reduce global poverty. Yunus is the only person in the world to have received the trifecta of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.

Since Yunus founded it 30 years ago, Grameen Bank, a microfinance organization and community development bank based in Bangladesh, has grown to include about 8.4 million borrowers, 96 percent of whom are women, and has a 97 percent return rate. More than 250 institutions and nearly 100 countries now also offer microcredit services modelled on the Grameen Bank system, which provides loans to individuals and entrepreneurs who are too poor to qualify for traditional bank loans.

Yunus explained his unique approach to poverty eradication, which differs from the work of nonprofit organizations and charities.

“I try to solve the problem by creating a business,” Yunus said.

University President John J. DeGioia praised Yunus’ work and challenged the audience to take up his cause at the event, which was co-sponsored by the Institute for Women, Peace and Security, the Master’s Program for Global Human Development, the Office of the President and the Yunus Centre.

“He reminds us through his words and actions that it is up to us all to enrich and expand the context of those now in poverty to create fertile grounds so [that] they can fulfill their potential and claim their rightful place in the global community,” DeGioia said.

Yunus’ approach inverts the traditional business goal of making money, instead aiming to solve problems by creating social businesses, which are non-dividend companies that reinvest profits to address social needs.

Grameen Bank’s willingness to deal directly with women also diverges from traditional banking practices in Bangladesh, which have prevented women from learning how to handle money.

“When the woman says, ‘I do not know what to do with money; I am afraid of money,’ always remember it is not her voice,” Yunus said. “It is the voice of the history which created the fears of money.”

According to Yunus, vast improvements in women’s health and dropping birthrates in Bangladesh, which have helped put Bangladesh on track to achieve the first United Nations Millennium Development Goal of cutting poverty in half by 2015, are testaments to Grameen Bank’s success.

“That basket case has now become strong,” Yunus said in reference to former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s characterization of Bangladesh as a “basket case.”

Yunus described the powerful cocktail of imagination, ideas and technology as being pivotal to his success.

“All you need to change the world is an idea, not money,” he said. “If you imagine, it will happen.”

The Hilltop Microfinance Initiative, a student group founded in 2008, embraces Yunus’ approach to poverty eradication by providing small business loans and business consulting services to low-income entrepreneurs and immigrants who are ineligible for traditional loans.

HMFI Chief Operating Officer Dawn Chan (SFS ’14) said that Yunus’ work inspired the HMFI’s mission.

“Yunus’ theory and what he is pushing for [are] what we are doing now,” she said. “We try to empower people by giving them financial opportunities.”

Source: The Hoya

Japan getting fond of social business

Masaharu okada

Rezaul Karim

The social business concept introduced by Nobel laureate Dr Muhammad Yunus continues to receive support in Japan. The Japanese believe the model can solve various social problems, including poverty and environmental issues.

Since the declaration of Fukuoka city in Japan to be a social business city, academic institutions have seen that the model not only helps developing countries, but also developed countries like Japan. The social business city promotes zero dividend businesses to solve social problems in the city and throughout Asia.

Inspired by Yunus, Kyushu University set up an academic centre — Yunus and Shiiki Social Business Research Centre — in October 2011 to study, research, and promote social business in Japan and all over the world.

The centre aims to produce skilled social architects, build partnerships with related organisations, create replicable social business models to combat global issues such as poverty, health, environment, energy, education and natural disaster crises. Prominent businessman Shiiki of the Fukuoka city funds this centre.

An agreement was signed between Kyushu University and Grameen Communications to promote relations and carry out collaborative research to solve global issues by using Grameen’s strength in serving the masses and the Japanese strength in technology.

Prof Masaharu Okada, executive director of the Yunus and Shiiki Social Business Research Centre, said he was impressed by Yunus’ personality and the wonderful social business innovation. Prof Okada engages himself with the university projects with the Grameen family and began working with Dr Yunus in 2008. He joined as executive director of Yunus Centre and Grameen Creative Lab at Kyushu University.

Students of Kyushu and many other universities in Japan are now encouraged to do research on social businesses, Prof Okada said in a recent interview.

He said about 100 students from different universities in Japan placed ideas for research on social business in July last year.

On the importance of social business in an advanced country like Japan, Prof Okada gave an example. He said Japan has become an aged society and the number of old people is increasing, which has created the serious social problem of committing suicide because people become so lonely in old age. He said about 30,000 people commit suicide in Japan every year. “We are doing research on removing the problem by engaging the older citizens in various activities under social business programmes.”

He also said it has been identified in Japan that a section of people, after release from spending years in jail, commit crimes to go back into jail as they do not find any job later. “Here, we decided to engage these people in social business after their release from jail, to discourage them from committing more crimes.”

Prof Okada said the Bangladeshi people should know more about his (Yunus’) work because he is doing vital work for the planet and his social business concept is smart.

Regretting the removal of the Nobel laureate from Grameen Bank, the Japanese professor said Yunus was innovative before receiving the award and also after.

It is now established that social business is an emerging phenomenon. Kyushu University in City of Fukuoka, Japan started a joint project in Bangladesh with the Grameen family in 2007, he said.

“In 2009, I joined the project, promoting social business in Japan with symposiums, workshops and public relations welcoming Prof Yunus in Japan.”

Kyushu University signed two deals with Prof Yunus in September 2009. The first one was on Grameen Technology Lab between Yunus Centre in Bangladesh, and Kyushu University and Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation in Japan to advance social business in technology.

The second one was on Grameen Creative Lab between Yunus Centre and Kyushu University to advance in educational and promotional aspects.

In March 2010, Grameen Creative Lab was officially established, followed by establishment of Grameen Technology Lab, a consortium of Japanese companies working on the field of technology and technology research departments of Kyushu University.

The Creative Lab aims to proactively carry out education, research, and incubation of social business in collaboration with the Grameen family. The Technology Lab aims to solve the social problems defined in the United Nations’ millennium development goals by developing affordable and usable technologies and applying the concept of social business to serve the unreached communities in a sustainable manner.

When asked how they launched social business in Japan, Okada said social business is one of the tools to solve problems in the world. “Prof Yunus seems to be a leader of vision.”

These businesses were launched with symposiums, workshops and other public relations schemes to let the Japanese people understand what social business is. Small social businesses were created as pilot models with partners and funding was prepared for investment in social businesses. There was further development of infrastructure for deployment of social business such as tax policies and education programmes at universities.

Even in advanced countries, there are many social problems. As long as there are social problems, there is an opportunity for social businesses to work.

Human Harbor, a social business venture in Japan, targets to solve the problem of repeating offence and supports people just released from prison. The company provides such people an opportunity to work, earn and learn with a place to live. Each shareholder will make an investment in the company.

On his next plans for social business, Okada said they would support the second social business company to be established in or outside Japan, creating social business funds to invest in such companies and letting the Japanese people recognise that social business is the way that the Japanese had in the past and should have in the future.

Source: The Daiy Star

US Congressional Gold Medal for Professor Yunus

Munir Quddus

Professor Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank, will be awarded the US Congressional Gold Medal. The historic and glittering award-giving ceremony will take place in Washington, the US capital, on April 17, 2013.

Since the American Revolution in 1776, the United States "Congress has commissioned gold medals as its highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions" to humanity. These medals are given to honour individuals, institution or an event who are widely acclaimed by Americans for their sacrifice and contributions. All Congressional gold medal legislations must be co-sponsored by at least 66 per cent (290) of the members of the House. According to the rules of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, at least 67 Senators must co-sponsor any legislation for the Congressional Gold Medal before the committee considers it.

Given these high standards, only those who are universally recognised for their good works stand a chance of receiving this prestigious award.

In today's highly charged and partisan political environment in Washington DC, where the two major parties in the United States Congress seem to agree on nothing, it is remarkable for a foreign national to receive such widespread support from both parties. The award certainly demonstrates the high esteem Professor Yunus enjoys amongst members of the United States Congress and Senate, and among the American citizens.

Dr Yunus is being honoured for his lifetime achievements in the cause of alleviating poverty in Bangladesh and globally. Through his creative ideas, hard work and brilliant implementation of the idea of micro-credit throughout Bangladesh and globally, Prof Yunus has made brilliant contributions in the cause of helping millions of poor, especially women, take charge of their lives to overcome heartbreaking poverty. Thanks to the unique organisation he conceived and built over thirty years, more than $10 billion has been loaned to millions of small businesses owned by poor women in Bangladesh to generate incomes, savings and jobs. His efforts, along with that of other NGOs such as BRAC, are the catalyst behind a silent and peaceful revolution that has helped Bangladesh stay on schedule in meeting the Millennium Development Goals on time including the goal of reducing poverty by half by 2015. Today, globally, more than 150 million poor and their families, in nearly 100 countries benefit from access to collateral free loans given in small disciplined doses, and other financial services together known as micro-finance.

Since sharing the 2006 Nobel Prize in peace, instead of slowing down, Professor Yunus has redoubled his efforts to build a global consensus around the idea that business can be used for good works - coining the term "Social Business" to describe businesses that shun the profit maximisation motto and instead commit themselves to solve societal problems such as poverty, hunger, illiteracy, environmental degradation, among others. Grameen bank, the mother institution, and newer businesses such as Grameen Shakti provide excellent examples of social businesses that have helped transformed lives of millions of poor in rural Bangladesh.

The previous recipients of the Congressional Gold Medal include such luminaries and distinguished figures as George Washington, the first President of the United States, Harry Truman who as President led the USA to victory during the Second World War, Mother Theresa, the renowned humanitarian, Nelson Mandela who as President led South Africa peacefully away from the dark era of apartheid, Pope John Paul II, President Ronald Reagan, Dalai Lama, Dr. Norman Borlaug, the father of the Green Revolution and winner of two Nobel Prizes, Dr Michael Debakey, the famous heart surgeon and inventor from Houston, and Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon.

Not everyone who has received this award has also received the US President's gold medal, the highest civilian award the United States President can bestow. Finally, the list of people who have been honoured with these two awards, along with a Nobel Prize, is very short indeed.

This award is a great honour not just for Professor Yunus, but for all Bangladeshis. He is uniquely a product of Bangladesh, and could not have done his work on poverty alleviation outside Bangladesh. Today every citizen of Bangladesh, irrespective of party affiliation, should feel justifiably proud that a fellow Bangladeshi citizen is being honoured by this most distinguished award.

Bangladeshis, globally, will feel honoured at the outstanding achievement of their fellow citizen forgetting the recent deep and painful events at home, where political gridlock and violent protests resulted in deaths and destruction of property. The special event for honouring a Bangladeshi in Washington will usher in a hope amongst them for a brighter future when new political leaders will emerge from the youths, who would lead the nation away from animosity and partisanship towards an era of shared peace and prosperity for all.

Source: The Financial Express

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