The other day, as I was driving back home from MIT, I turned on the radio, and by pure chance happened on an absolutely mesmerizing talk by Muhammad Yunus at one of the National Public Radio (NPR) stations in the Boston area. The lecture I was listening to - “The End of Poverty: Because Poverty Is the Absence of Every Human Right” - was originally given at Boston University in October 2007.
Dr. Yunus is a Bangladeshi economist and the founder of the Grameen Bank, which he created in 1974 to help impoverished borrowers start small businesses and obtain an education. He first loaned $27 to a small group of very poor Bangladeshi women, and gradually increased the number of loans. He pioneered the revolutionary concept of micro-loans to help the poor in developing countries. With these micro-loans, the poor are able to start very small businesses, and they can gradually improve their economic situations and start moving out of poverty. Grameen Bank now has more than 7.5 million borrowers, and about 2/3 of the families receiving loans have risen above the poverty line.
The banking system pioneered by Muhammad Yunus is now being used in more than 100 countries. For his innovative economic and social development work, Dr. Yunus, along with Grameen Bank, was awarded the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. The prize announcement by the Nobel Peace committee said:
"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. Loans to poor people without any financial security had appeared to be an impossible idea. From modest beginnings three decades ago, Yunus has, first and foremost through Grameen Bank, developed micro-credit into an ever more important instrument in the struggle against poverty. Grameen Bank has been a source of ideas and models for the many institutions in the field of micro-credit that have sprung up around the world."