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

First loan he gave was $27 from own pocket

Muhammad Yunus, the visionary and developer of the unique microcredit concept, was born at an obscure village in Chittagong in June 28, 1940.

He was the third of 14 children of Sufia Khatun and Mohammed Dula Miah, a jewellery merchant. But five siblings of Yunus died in infancy.

The Grameen Bank, which Muhammad Yunus founded and shares the Nobel Peace Prize 2006 with, now has 2,211 branches covering 70,370 villages and 6.5 million people.

Yunus is now leading a happy life in Bangladesh with his wife Mrs Afrozi and daughter Deena.

Coming of a well-off family, Yunus was able to attend preparatory school in Chittagong. After that, he studied in Chittagong Collegiate School and Chittagong College. He completed his BA and MA from Dhaka University.

He received his PhD in economics from Vanderbilt University in 1969 after getting Fulbright scholarship. He did some teaching in Colorado University too.

Towards the end of his seven-year stay in America, Yunus supported the Bangladeshi freedom movement when West Pakistan forces occupied the capital Dhaka. Returning to Bangladesh and observing the poverty of rural people in the clutches of exploitative moneylenders, Yunus came up with the idea of microcredit.

After staying seven years in Bangladesh, he joined Chittagong University as a professor of economics.

Yunus first involved himself in fighting poverty during the 1974 famine in Bangladesh. Yunus discovered that very small loans could make a significant difference to a poor person's ability to survive.

The first loan he gave was of $27 from his own pocket. He lent it to 42 female basket weavers in the village of Jobra near Chittagong University. He discovered that they could repay the amount very quickly by selling their goods in the market.

Before this, they used to take loans from village loan-sharks with high interest rates. In some cases, the interest rates stood at a staggering 10 percent a week.

However, banks were not interested in giving tiny loans to poor people and they considered the poor to be bad borrowers.

In 1976, Yunus launched the activities of Grameen Bank and started giving loans to poor Bangladeshis against the advice of banks and the government. He carried on giving out micro-loans and in 1983, he officially formed the Grameen Bank, meaning village bank, on the principles of trust and solidarity.

The Grameen Bank's method of giving out loans is now used in projects in 58 countries, including the US, Canada, France, the Netherlands and Norway.

In 1997, Professor Yunus led the world's first microcredit summit in Washington, DC.

Dr Muhammad Yunus received over 60 different national and international awards before winning the Nobel Peace Prize, 2006.

The national awards he received are: President's Award 1978, Central Bank Award 1985, Independence Day Award 1987, Rear Admiral MA Khan Memorial Gold Medal Award 1993, Dr Mohammad Ibrahim Memorial Gold Medal Award 1994, RCMD Award 1995, IDEB Gold Medal Award 2000 and Bangladesh Computer Society Gold Medal 2005.

The international awards are: Ramon Magsaysay Award 1984, Aga Khan Award for Architecture 1989, Humanitarian Award 1993, Mohamed Sahabdeen Award for Science (socio-economic) 1993, World Food Prize 1994, Pfeffer Peace Prize 1994, Max Schmidheiny Foundation Freedom Prize 1995, International Simon Bolivar Prize 1996, Distinguished Alumnus Award of Vanderbilt University 1996, International Activist Award 1997, Planetary Consciousness Business Innovation Prize 1997, Help for self-help Prize 1997, Man for Peace Award 1997, State of the World Forum Award 1997, One World Broadcasting Trust Media Awards 1998, The Prince of Austurias Award for Concord 1998, Sydney Peace Prize 1998, Ozaki (Gakudo) Award 1998, Indira Gandhi Prize 1998, Juste of the Year Award 1998, Rotary Award for World Understanding 1999, Golden Pegasus Award 1999, Roma Award for Peace and Humanitarian Action 1999, Rathindra Puraskar 1998, Omega Award of Excellence for Lifetime Achievement 2000, Award of the Medal of the Presidency of the Italian Senate 2000, King Hussein Humanitarian Leadership Award 2000, Artusi Prize 2001, Grand Prize of the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize 2001, Ho Chi Minh Award 2001, International Cooperation Prize Caja de Granada 2001, Navarra International Aid Award 2001, Mahatma Gandhi Award 2002, World Technology Network Award 2003, Volvo Environment Prize 2003, National Merit Order Award by the Honorable President of the Republic of Colombia in 2003, The Medal of the Painter Oswaldo Guayasamin Award 2003, Telecinco Award 2004, City of Orvieto Award 2004, The Economist Innovation Award 2004, World Affairs Council Award 2004, Leadership in Social Entrepreneurship Award, Premio Galileo 2000, Special Prize for Peace 2004, Nikkei Asia Prize 2004 Golden Cross of the Civil Order of the Social Solidarity 2005, Freedom Award 2005, Prize Il Ponte 2005, Foundation of Justice 2005, Harvard University Neustadt Award 2006, Global Citizen of the Year Award 2006, Franklin D Roosevelt Freedom Award 2006, ITU World Information Society Award 2006 and Seoul Peace Prize 2006.

Additionally, Yunus was awarded 27 honorary degrees. Of them, only one is not a doctorate degree. He has also been given 15 special awards.

Yunus has been on the board of many national and international organisations. Besides Grameen Bank, he has created a number of companies in Bangladesh to address the diverse issues of poverty and development.

The companies are: Grameen Phone, Grameen Cybernet, Grameen Communications, Grameen Software, Grameen Information Technology Park, Grameen Fund, Grameen Capital Management, Grameen Textile, Grameen Knitwear, Grameen Renewable Energy, Grameen Health, Grameen Education, Grameen Agriculture, Grameen Fisheries and Livestock, Grameen Business Promotion, etc.