Saturday, December 09, 2006

Nobel Peace 2006 Winner

Heartiest Congratulations!!!

Rapturous ovation and heartiest compliments from the hearts of all Bangladesh's and Banglalis to the first Bangladeshi Nobel laureate Professor Dr. Muhammad Yunus, the nation's brightest star. Professor Yunus, congatulations to you and your Grameen Family.
After independence in 1971 and restoring democracy in ’91, Bangladesh witnessed the biggest achievement as Professor Muhammad Yunus and his Grameen Bank were declared to win the Nobel Peace Prize 2006 for pioneering the use of micro-credit to benefit poor entrepreneurs. Prof Yunus is the first Bangladeshi and also the third Bangalee after poet Rabindranath Tagore and economist Amartya Sen to win the Nobel Prize. Grameen Bank, founded by Prof Yunus, has been instrumental by offering loans to millions of poor Bangladeshis, many of them women, without any financial security, in improving their standard of living by starting businesses with the tiny borrowed sums.

"Lasting peace cannot be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty. Micro-credit is one such means," said Ole Danbolt Mjøs, chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

"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." Prof Yunus and Grameen Bank were chosen for the prestigious award from among 191 candidates, including 168 individuals and 23 organisations.

Yunus, dubbed "Banker to the Poor", began fighting poverty during a 1974 famine in Bangladesh with a loan of $27 out of his pocket to help 42 women buy weaving tools to save them from the clutches of the moneylenders. "They got the weaving tools quickly, they started to weave quickly and they repaid him quickly," said Mjøs.

"Yunus and Grameen Bank have shown that even the poorest of the poor can work to bring about their own development," the Nobel Committee said in its citation. The economics professor is now seen as one of the main developers of the concept of micro-credit, which gives entrepreneurs who are too poor to qualify for traditional bank loans very small sums to start up their own enterprises.
In an unprecedented day of joy and pride for all Bangadesh's and Bangalis, the Norwegian Nobel Prize Committee awarded the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize to Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Corporation for working to eliminate the roots of poverty using the novel micro-credit technique. This makes Dr. Yunus the first and only Bangladeshi to win the Nobel Prize, a feat which has prompted waves of celebration in Bangladesh. Dr. Yunus has been awarded the prize for his fantastic ideas about using micro-credit to help those living in extreme poverty. His vision and action realized the seemingly impossible idea that loans can be offered to people who have no financial stability. He created Grameen Bank as a means to achieve this.Grameen Bank turned the conventional method of banking on its head, awarding credit to the poorest of poor in rural Bangladesh - without collateral - based on trust, mutual interest, or accountability. It awarded money mainly to women interested in starting up their own businesses and fostered entrepreneurship in villages all across Bangladesh. It offered extremely competitive interest rates and counseling to borrowers on how to achieve their dream and run a business. According to its Web site, the bank had 6.61 million borrowers, as of May 2006. And 97 percent of them are women. "With 2226 branches, GB provides services in 71,371 villages, covering 100 percent of the total villages in Bangladesh," the site reads. The bank has over 25 million borrowers worldwide and has become a role model for many other NGOs, government and financial institutions trying to ignite economic prosperity.
As founder of the Grameen Movement, Professor Muhammad Yunus is a revolutionary. His ideas couple capitalism with social responsibility and have changed the face of rural economic and social development forever. Professor Yunus is responsible for many innovative programs benefiting the rural poor. In 1974, he pioneered the idea of Gram Sarker (village government) as a form of local government based on the participation of rural people. This concept proved successful and was adopted by the Bangladeshi government in 1980. In 1978, he received the President's award for Tebhaga Khamar (a system of cooperative three-share farming, which the Bangladeshi government adopted as the Packaged Input Program in 1977). A Fulbright Scholar at Vanderbilt University, Professor Yunus received his Ph.D. in Economics in 1969. Later that year, he became an assistant professor of Economics at Middle Tennessee State University, before returning to Bangladesh where he joined the Economics Department at Chittagong University.
The UN secretary general appointed Professor Yunus to the International Advisory Group for the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing from 1993 to 1995. Professor Yunus has also served on the Global Commission of Women's Health (1993-1995), the Advisory Council for Sustainable Economic Development (1993-present), and the UN Expert Group on Women and Finance. He also serves as the chair of the Policy Advisory Group (PAG) of Consultative Group to Assist the Poorest (CGAP). Yunus has also served on many committees and commissions dealing with education, population, health, disaster prevention, banking, and development programs. He is currently on the boards of many international organizations including Amanah Ikhtiar Malaysia (a Grameen replication project), the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, and Credit and Savings for the Poor in Malayasia. Professor Yunus also sits on the board of the Calvert World Values Fund, the Foundation for International Community Assistance, the National Council for Freedom From Hunger, RESULTS and the International Council of Ashoka Foundation, all of which are located in the US.
As a young economics professor at Chittagong University in Bangladesh in 1976, Muhammad Yunus lent $27 out of his own pocket to a group of poor craftsmen in the nearby town of Jobra. To boost the impact of that small sum, Yunus volunteered to serve as guarantor on a larger loan from a traditional bank, kindling the idea for a village-based enterprise called the Grameen Project. It never occurred to the professor that his gesture would inspire a whole category of lending and propel him to the top of a powerful financial institution.
Today, Yunus runs Bangladesh's Grameen Bank, a leading advocate for the world's poor that has lent more than $5.1 billion to 5.3 million people. The bank is built on Yunus' conviction that poor people can be both reliable borrowers and avid entrepreneurs. It even includes a project called Struggling Members Program that serves 55,000 beggars. Under Yunus, Grameen has spread the idea of microcredit throughout Bangladesh, Southern Asia, and the rest of the developing world."
At first I didn't think that what I did had any significance in a broader context," he explains. But the mission keeps expanding in scale, and in the meantime, Yunus has grown intimately familiar with the unbearable dimensions of global poverty. As many as 1.2 billion people around the planet lack access to basic necessities, he explains, and microfinance could be their pathway out of despair. "Yunus and Grameen have taken a first step, which has inspired others to take a look at [microfinance] as a business," says John Tucker, deputy director of the microfinance unit at the U.N. Capital Development Fund.
Yunus' innovation has broad appeal. In 1997 only about 7.6 million families had been served by microcredit worldwide, according to the 2005 State of the Microcredit Summit Campaign Report. As of Dec. 31, 2004, some 3,200 microcredit institutions reported reaching more than 92 million clients, according to the report. Almost 73% of them were living in dire poverty at the time of their first loan. When Yunus started Grameen, he wanted to turn traditional banking on its head. One of his first moves was to focus on women because they are most likely to think of the family's needs. This was a radical step in a traditional Muslim society, and it took Yunus six years to reach his initial goal of a 50-50 gender distribution among borrowers. Today, 96% of Grameen's borrowers are women. "If banks made large loans, he made small loans. If banks required paperwork, his loans were for the illiterate. Whatever banks did, he did the opposite," marvels Sam Daley-Harris, director of the Microcredit Summit Campaign. "He's a genius."
In some cases, Yunus has been able to attract private capital to fund socially driven businesses. GrameenPhone, a for-profit telecom outfit, is 51% owned by Norway's Telenor . It works with the not-for-profit Grameen Telecom to provide bulk airtime for so-called village phones. Funded by loans to individual women, these systems -- built from simple handsets and solar chargers -- function as pay phones in many rural areas. Now the idea of a "village phone lady" is catching on, along with other low-cost, high-tech systems, in other parts of Asia and Africa. An energy enterprise, Grameen Shakti, sells around 1,500 home solar-panel systems per month throughout rural Bangladesh and is growing 15% a year without subsidies, says Yunus.The professor's most recent innovation is still an experiment: Grameen Danone Food Co. is a proposed partnership between Grameen and France's Group Danone to make a nutritious and inexpensive baby formula. Next on his list are low-cost eye care and rural hospitals with video-conferencing between villagers and doctors in Dhaka. "In Bangladesh, where nothing works and there's no electricity," Yunus says, "microcredit works like clockwork."