Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus visits Quinnipiac University

yunus quinnipiacNobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, who founded the practice of microcredit as a means to combat global poverty, visited Quinnipiac on March 6 to deliver a free community lecture, "Microcredit and Social Business for Poverty Reduction." Yunus also participated in two panel discussions on campus the same day.

The event was sponsored by Quinnipiac's School of Business and Albert Schweitzer Institute.

Yunus, a Bangladeshi economist driven by his belief that credit is a fundamental human right, established the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh in 1983. He hoped to help impoverished people escape poverty by providing loans and teaching them sound financial principles.

From Yunus' personal loan of small amounts of money to destitute basket weavers in Bangladesh in the mid-70s, the Grameen Bank has advanced to the forefront of a burgeoning world movement toward eradicating poverty through microlending. Replicas of the Grameen Bank model operate in more than 100 countries worldwide.

"Dr. Yunus is not just the father of microlending, he is also the visionary behind  'social business' as something distinct from traditional, profit-oriented business and from social entrepreneurship," said Mohammad Elahee, professor of international business and native of Bangladesh who helped arrange Yunus' visit to Quinnipiac.

"Because of Yunus' efforts, millions of people, and especially destitute women, have been uplifted from abject poverty and now live with dignity. His ideas present a new direction for attaining global peace," Elahee said.

Born in 1940 in the seaport city of Chittagong, Yunus studied at Dhaka University in Bangladesh and received a Fulbright scholarship to study economics at Vanderbilt University. He earned his doctorate in economics from Vanderbilt in 1969 and the following year, became an assistant professor of economics at Middle Tennessee State University. Returning to Bangladesh, Yunus headed the economics department at Chittagong University.

From 1993 to 1995, Yunus was a member of the International Advisory Group for the Fourth World Conference on Women, a post to which he was appointed by the United Nations secretary general. He has served on the Global Commission of Women's Health, the Advisory Council for Sustainable Economic Development and the United Nations Expert Group on Women and Finance.

Yunus is the recipient of numerous international awards for his ideas and endeavors, including the Mohamed Shabdeen Award for Science (1993), Sri Lanka; Humanitarian Award (1993), CARE, USA; World Food Prize (1994), World Food Prize Foundation, USA; Independence Day Award (1987), Bangladesh's highest award; King Hussein Humanitarian Leadership Award (2000), King Hussein Foundation, Jordan; Volvo Environment Prize (2003), Volvo Environment Prize Foundation, Sweden; Nikkei Asia Prize for Regional Growth (2004), Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Japan; Franklin D. Roosevelt Freedom Award (2006), Roosevelt Institute of The Netherlands; and the Seoul Peace Prize (2006), Seoul Peace Prize Cultural Foundation, Seoul, Korea. He also is a member of the board of the United Nations Foundation. Yunus received the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 and the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal in 2012.

Source: quinnipiac.edu

House & Senate Leaders Announce Gold Medal Ceremony for Professor Muhammad Yunus

WASHINGTON, DC – House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced today that they will hold a U.S. Capitol ceremony next month to present Professor Muhammad Yunus with a Congressional Gold Medal.

The Gold Medal represents Congress’s highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions.  Congress awarded the medal to Professor Yunus in 2010 in recognition of his efforts to combat global poverty.  Professor Yunus has won international acclaim for developing the concept of microcredit and using that model of lending to promote economic and social opportunity.  For his work, Professor Yunus was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.  A complete list of Congressional Gold Medal recipients is available at House.gov.

The Gold Medal ceremony for Professor Yunus will take place on Wednesday, April 17, 2013 in the Capitol Rotunda. 

Source: Speaker.gov

Kevin Cadman appointed chief executive of Grameen in UK

A former regional director of Royal Bank of Scotland has been appointed to oversee the introduction of the Grameen micro-lending system to the UK.

Kevin Cadman was chosen as chief executive by the Grameen Scotland Foundation.

The original Grameen bank was founded in Bangladesh in the 1970s by Nobel Prize winner Prof Muhammad Yunus.

Grameen aims to alleviate economic, health and social inequalities in some of Scotland's poorest communities.

An initial pilot scheme will serve Glasgow, North Ayrshire, West Dunbartonshire and Inverclyde.

Mr Cadman has more than 30 years of experience in the banking sector in Scotland.

He was RBS regional director for central Scotland before leaving the bank in July 2012.

Mr Cadman said: "I am delighted to join the Grameen Scotland Foundation at this very exciting moment in its history.

"The Grameen micro-lending system has helped to lift millions of people out of poverty worldwide and I look forward to drawing on my extensive experience of the financial sector as Grameen micro-loans are introduced to the UK for the first time.

"The Grameen model is all about helping individuals to make a better life for themselves by empowering them to cultivate business skills, develop financial awareness and become active members of the community.

"It goes straight to the heart of what finance should be all about - knowing customers as individuals and meeting their needs and aspirations."

The foundation has already won backing from various sources, including Tesco Bank, which has provided £500,000 in loan capital.

It also counts the Scottish government and Stagecoach co-founder Ann Gloag as supporters.

Prof Yunus launched the Grameen bank to offer microcredit to the poor.

He started by lending a small amount of money to a group of villagers at a rate that would allow them to make a profit from their small businesses and still pay him back.

The model has since been copied in developing countries around the world.

Source: BBC News
Published on:
25 Feb, 2013

Rohingya: Testing democracy in Myanmar

One of the fundamental challenges of a democracy is how to ensure the voice of the majority does not trample the essential rights of the minority. In the founding of the United States this was addressed by the Bill of Rights, some form of which is integrated into most democracies today.

Even as we applaud and rejoice in the new freedoms enjoyed by the Myanmar people, the country's newly elected government must face this challenge as they evolve from autocratic rule into a democratic state. The tragedy of the Rohingya people, continuing to unfold in Rakhine State in the country's western corner, on the border of Bangladesh, will be its proving ground.

The minority Muslim Rohingya continue to suffer unspeakable persecution, with more than 1,000 killed and hundreds of thousands displaced from their homes just in recent months, apparently with the complicity and protection of security forces.

The charge that the Rohingya are illegal immigrants to Myanmar is false. There is evidence that the Rohingya have been in present day Myanmar since the 8th century. It is incontrovertible that Muslim communities have existed in Rakhina State since the 15th century, added to by descendants of Bengalis migrating to Arakan (Rakhine) during colonial times.

The borders between present-day Bangladesh and Myanmar have shifted back and forth throughout these periods, resulting in ethnic Rakhine Buddhists living in Bangladesh today, and ethnic Bangali Muslims such as the Rohingya in Myanmar. As the Rahkine Buddhists are rooted in their Bangladeshi communities today, the Rakhine State in Myanmar is the only home the Rohingya know.

A glaring injustice was done to the Rohingya in 1982 when the ruling junta instituted a new law excluding them from the list of the 135 national races recognised by the Myanmar government, effectively stripping them of their nationality. Since that time they have been banned from travelling even short distances or from getting married without a permit. When a marriage permit is granted, they must sign a commitment to have no more than two children.

Half of the Rohingya population is estimated to have fled the periodic pogroms that have reduced their villages to ashes and left thousands killed or raped in horrendous massacres. After having lived side by side with the Rakhine Buddhist communities, today they are an uprooted and stateless population, with some 200,000 refugees estimated to still be living in neighbouring Bangladesh and hundreds of thousands more having fled to other parts of the world.

The 20th century gave us a term for the ugly phenomena of stripping individuals of their nationality and persecuting them for no reason other than the colour of their skin, their religion, or their ethnicity: "ethnic cleansing."

When the Myanmar government considers its progress on reform toward an open and democratic system of government, they must address one of the most barbaric remnants of their recent past, ethnic cleansing taking place in their midst, and right the wrongs done to the Rohingya population.

We wish the Rohingya to know that they are not alone. We hope to help share their plight with the world, in the hope and faith and trust that when the world knows of their suffering it will no longer turn its back on their persecution.

We humbly add our voices to the simple demand of the Rohingya people: that their rights as our fellow human beings be respected, that they be granted the right to live peacefully and without fear in the land of their parents, and without persecution for their ethnicity or their form of worship.

We ask the world to not look away, but to raise its collective voice in support of the Rohingya. In these days of public diplomacy the citizens, civil societies, NGOs, private investors and the business community have a vital role to play in the context of democratic reforms, human rights and development around the globe. We must use this voice.

We close with an appeal to the Myanmar government. You must amend the infamous 1982 law, and welcome the Rohingya as full citizens of Myanmar with all attendant rights. In doing so you will end the possibility of the radicalisation of the Rohingya and channel their energies for the development of Myanmar. You will remove the impetus for extremism and terrorism being generated by the current mistreatment of this vulnerable minority. A strong, stable and democratic Myanmar is not only in the interest to countries of the region, but will serve the cause of global peace and stability as well.

A government must in the end be judged by how it protects the most vulnerable people in its midst, and its generosity towards the weakest and most powerless. Let not the good work of this government be clouded by the continuing persecution of the Rohingya people.

Jose Ramos-Horta is former President of Timor Leste and the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Muhammad Yunus is Founder and former Managing Director of Grameen Bank and the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

(This article was printed in the Huffington Post on February 20)

Source: The Daily Star
Published on: Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Up Close and Personal with Muhammad Yunus

AT times, it is the people who do not intend to engrave their names on stone tablets or in history books that win a meaningful mark in history - not through flamboyance nor notoriety but through the pure intention of improving society.

Prof Muhammad Yunus is one of these characters - humble, charismatic and devoted to an altruistic vision.

Yunus' gift to humanity was to raise those stricken by poverty to a higher social status through microcredit and microfinance - lending money in favour of those who do not have the means to apply for loans under the traditional banking system.

The debtors, by and large village women, used the loans for to run small businesses to feed their families.

The former university professor's first loan was US$27 given out of his own pocket to 42 villagers in 1976, at which point he did not realise how much reaction he would garner from the village.

“When I went back, the people at the village were looking at me as though I've done some miracle. I felt a bit awkward,” he remembers.

Life championing an ideal has not been easy, Yunus admits delving into unprecedented waters and building the path as he went along. He did not comply nor agree with the rules and regulations of the banking system and tried to work around it.

When he proposed the idea of loaning to the poor, the banks scoffed, saying that they already have enough problems with the rich people.

He tried to persuade various banks for months on end to lend him money to then lend out to them. When that did not work, Yunus applied for the loan as a guarantor for the villagers. “The banks thought it was an easy way to get rid of me, so they agreed,” he says.

But as Yunus' efforts began to bear results - the villagers were repaying their loans on time - the banks began to impose more restrictions. Yunus was done with the system by then.

“Why don't I start my own bank? Who are they (The banks) to decide the fate of the people?” he says.

Thus, Grameen Bank, the first microfinance bank in the world came into existence in 1983.

“I would say I specialise in two things: I do little things and I do things which I know nothing about,” he quips, “I don't care whether I know how to do it or not but I jump into it.”

He says working on a blank canvas gave him an advantage. “Because when you don't know anything about it, you can be as daring as you want without being ashamed if it doesn't work.”

In his younger years, Yunus studied at Chittagong College before enrolling in the Department of Economics at Dhaka University in 1953.

While working on his doctorate degree in the United States, he taught economics in the Middle Tennessee University from 1969 to 1972.

Yunus returned to Bangladesh after the country gained independence and joined the University of Chittagong as economics department head where he tested different projects designed to fight poverty.

Making poverty obsolete

Yunus' vehement stance on poverty eradication was ingrained from where he grew up.

He describes the situation back home in those days as dire for the poor and microfinance had been a way out for many. “Loan sharks were making a killing in the village next to the university campus I was teaching at. So I asked, why go to them when you can come to me?”

Yunus sees in his community a problem to be solved, “instead of shedding tears over or writing research papers on”

“I am surrounded by (poverty) and I see there is no reason it should be there. It is not the fault of the people, something went wrong in the system and I'm trying to clean it up so that the people can come out of it.”

He sees poverty as a phenomenon imposed on to the poor, not created by them and has made his mission in life to identify the cause of poverty and assist the poor to be able to afford a living so that they don't have the chance to live in it anymore.

In short, Yunus would like to see poverty become a thing so obsolete it only has a place in museums.

“Then we can create poverty museums, and put poverty there,” he says.

Despite the criticisms and naysayers, Yunus' spirit is not dampened by those who do not share his views. In spearheading a revolutionary vision, he accepts that the old ideas will always clash with the new ones.

Though working against the tidal wave of conventions, he says this is nothing to be worried about because he is certain of his vision.

“If your idea is strong enough, it will overcome those that are weak.” He believes that ideas that are not beneficial or truthful will fade into history naturally.

“If you can continuously prove, on the ground, that you are saying the right thing then the other speculative things cannot survive,” he said, in response to critics' doubt and lack of faith in microfinance.

“They're not on the ground, but are still saying this will work, this will not work. (Microfinancing) is working, so what do you say of that?”

As communities beyond Bangladesh become more receptive of micro-crediting, Yunus has proven that hard work, persistence and a clear conscience will prevail.

“I'm a firm believer in the human being's capacity in overcoming all odds.”

“I don't think all the problems we see around us should be able to survive because of man's creative power - that they can address a problem and solve it if they put their minds to it,” he says of societal, health and environmental issues.

Changing society

Grameen Bank, like the traditional banks, has to find its funds to lend money out. “Just because you are a bank for the poor, doesn't mean you can go into the red.”

He explains that money is generated internally from the deposits and that the individual branches are profitable and self-sufficient in terms of supporting continuous loan-giving. He says that the scenario has changed, with most of the money now belonging to the borrowers and not the bank.

“It's a bank owned by the poor people as about a quarter of the total 2,565 branches have more savings than loans given out. Whatever profit is made goes back to the people.”

Yunus says that the total savings balance of Grameen Bank is now almost US$1bil. “Of the US$1.5bil loans, nearly US$1bil is their own money,” he says, adding that the villagers now keep the money at the bank as a way to manage their funds.

With Grameen Bank proven to be successful, Yunus' effort in creating more opportunities for the poor has also extended to the children of the illiterate villagers who have been with Grameen Bank.

“Here is our opportunity to break the history of illiteracy in these families. We want to make sure the children of these families do not repeat that history. Children need to go to school and we as the bank say, as long as they are with Grameen Bank, they cannot not drop out,” he says.

Yunus says Grameen Bank had encouraged women who loaned from the bank to send their children to school and that has resulted in all of the children from Grameen families being educated.

Although Grameen Bank had initially thought of encouraging children through primary school, many went the distance and completed school. Upon entering tertiary education, Grameen Bank had devised education loans for them to continue studying so nobody could blame poverty as an obstacle.

“There are nearly 1000 students in medical, engineering and other professional courses now but the problem is there are no jobs for them,” Yunus admits that Bangladeshi's youth usually need to bribe or rely on their parents' connections to land a job.

Yunus says the solution to that problem was changing the mindset of the graduates, asking them to pledge that they would not be job seekers but job providers. He believes that, like their parents who have benefited from Grameen Bank's loans, they should also take a leaf out of that chapter of their elders' lives.

“Forget about the job, you are special, privileged kind of children because your mother owns a bank,” he says, reminding the children of their mother's leap of faith when she took on a loan to start a life.

Yunus opines that if illiterate mothers could take a small loan and build a profitable business from it, then children with their education should be able to as well.

And with that, the children have been coming back to Grameen Bank, looking at opportunities to start a business.

Yunus' ideals have come to live within his home country, with many other societies adopting the microfinance concept for the betterment of their people.

Malaysia, too, has its brand of microfinancing facility provided by Amanah Ikhtiar Malaysia (AIM) which has been financing women who are not formally employed. Since its inception in 1987, AIM has disbursed about RM7.2bil loans.

“Whether it is poverty, environment or social problems, all these should be removed. That's what the human civilisation is for.”

BORN: June 28, 1940 in Chittagong, Bangladesh

PERSONAL: Married with two daughters

HIGHEST QUALIFICATION: PhD in economics from Vanderbilt University, US

CAREER: Former economics professor; Grameen Bank founder

NOTEWORTHY: 2006 Nobel Pe ace Prize, alongside Grameen Bank

Published on: Saturday February 9, 2013
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