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Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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How this Nobel Prize winner has helped thousands out of poverty

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Nobel Peace Prize recipient Muhammad Yunus, travelled to Rome last year to join the international Meeting for Human Fraternity organised by the Vatican.

He was among the Nobel laureates who signed the Declaration on Human Fraternity in St Peter’s Square, given all his work with poor entrepreneurs in Bangladesh.

In 1970, Yunus was a university professor in Bangladesh. There, he was deeply struck by the poverty of the residents and the abuses they faced when it came to receiving loans to start their own businesses, like being charged unaffordable interest rates.

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So he decided to offer loans out of his own pocket. His proposal received such an avalanche of requests that he created a financial institution: the Grameen Bank, commonly known as the people’s bank.

“I tried to follow the conventional banks, how they do it,” he explained.

“So I looked at what they do and I decided to do the opposite. They go to the rich; I go to the poor. They go to men; I go to women. They want to go on the city centre; I want to go to the remote village. They want collateral; I said no collateral. It’s free from collateral.”

His main clients were the women in the town, who were often denied a loan to start a business because no one believed they could pay it back.

“One of the issues that we learned from Grameen Bank is that human beings are born with unlimited creative capacity. That’s what we have done with the poor women.

“She is illiterate, never went to school, cannot read, cannot write one little thing and removed from everything that happens in the rest of the world. She is totally, totally away from everyone.

“So we went to her, and we found out she is a very creative person once you give the idea, she can develop a business. She’s never done a business before, never held money in her hand.”

When the professor realised the difference this loan made in people’s lives, he began documenting their stories.

“Where she was born, how she grew up, what happened to her, when was she married off, how many children she has, what domestic problems she faced, so we knew all the issues relating to that person,” said Muhammad.

“So we published them in a book, several of those things. So we try to understand what it means to them to have the money, use the money and change their life and so on.”

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