Vol. 5 Num 849 Sat. October 14, 2006  
Front Page

Yunus makes nation proud
Shares Nobel Peace Prize with his Grameen Bank

After independence in 1971 and restoring democracy in 91, Bangladesh witnessed the biggest achievement as Professor Muhammad Yunus and his Grameen Bank were declared yesterday 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 Mjs, 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 Mjs.

"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.

Prof Yunus in his immediate reaction told Norway's NRK television by telephone that he was "delighted, really delighted".

"You are endorsing a dream to achieve a poverty-free world," he said.

This is a historic moment for the nation, he told the press in Dhaka. "The Nobel Peace Prize has acknowledged the merit of Bangladesh as a proud nation in the world.

"We have so far taken a lot from others. Now, we have been able to give the world something in return," Prof Yunus said referring to his concept of micro-credit.

Prof Yunus will visit the Central Shaheed Minar at 10:00am today to pay his tribute to the martyrs of the country's 1952 Language Movement.

"This is the last prize. That's what's so special about it ... it's the sky," Prof Yunus told Reuters from his residence in Dhaka.

"It's very happy news for me and also for the nation. But it has burdened us with further responsibility. Bangladesh now must remove poverty from the country and also put in more effort to eradicate poverty from the world.

"Now the war against poverty will be further intensified across the world. It will consolidate the struggle against poverty through micro-credit in most of the countries...There should be no poverty, anywhere," Prof Yunus said, envisaging a better world.

"At Grameen Bank, credit is a cost effective weapon to fight poverty and it serves as a catalyst in the overall development of socio-economic conditions of the poor who have been kept outside the banking orbit on the ground that they are poor and hence not bankable," the Nobel Committee said.

Today the bank claims to have 6.6 million borrowers, 97 per cent of them women, and provides services in more than 70,000 villages in Bangladesh. Its model of micro-financing has inspired similar efforts around the world.

"Micro-credit has proved to be an important liberating force in societies where women in particular have to struggle against repressive social and economic conditions," the Nobel Committee noted.

Prof Yunus' Nobel victory was a surprise--bookmakers had tipped former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari for his efforts in brokering a peace deal last year in the Indonesian province of Aceh.

Australia's former foreign minister Gareth Evans had also been tipped for his International Crisis Group that analyses conflicts and proposes solutions.

Prof Yunus said he was looking forward to visiting Oslo to receive the prize on December 10. "Definitely, I'm going to come," he said.

Prof Yunus and the bank will share in the $1.4 million prize as well as a gold medal and diploma.

Micro-credit guru Prof Muhammad Yunus among jubilant friends and admirers at Grameen Bank at Mirpur in the capital after getting the news of winning Nobel Peace Prize yesterday. PHOTO: STAR