I’d like to introduce Professor Muhammad Yunus to you. He is the Nobel Peace Prize Winner of 2006. Some people call him the father of microcredit or the father of social business. Prof Yunus visited Chinese University of Hong Kong in October this year and gave a very inspiring lecture. His work and his beliefs are worth our attention.
Yunus is the Founder of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, a bank that serves the poor, saving them from the loan sharks. The Grameen Bank lends small monies to the poor, can be as small as 30 dollars, so that the borrowers can buy seeds to grow vegetables. It does not require the signing of legal papers or assessment of creditability which turn away people in poverty. Thus, Yunus is also known as the “Banker to the Poor”. To Yunus, the conventional banks only serve the rich, i.e. people who have credits and are bankable. The poor who also need the money are shut out from banks and they can only go to the loan sharks. It is shameful!
Apart from his brand new idea of banking, Yunus also helps the poor in many ways, and practical ways. He said he is not a philanthropist; he is not giving away money. He also does business. However, he does business not to make money, but to solve problems and to help the poor. He created social enterprises. His social enterprises sell seeds to many women borrowers so that they can grow vegetables for food and business. In a short time, the problem of night-blindness, which is a result of lacking Vitamin A, is solved. He introduces solar-energy home systems to the villages of Bangladesh where there are no power facilities. Through this business, he improves the lives of the poor, and saves them from the hazards of kerosene lamps. These are only two examples.
What impresses me the most about Yunus is his courage to challenge the conventional systems and beliefs because they only serve the rich but fail to help the poor. He also remarks that “working for somebody” stems from a slavery concept. When young graduates complained to him about unemployment, he said, “You’re not a job seeker, but a job creator.” He encourages young graduates to start up their own business and also sets up a fund to help them.
Yunus has a dream, with 3 zeros: Zero poverty in the world; Zero unemployment and Zero net carbon emission. I’m not sure if I can live to see his dream come true. However, if more people share the same dream and are willing to work on it as he did, a better tomorrow can come.
I am greatly inspired by his lecture and encourage you to watch it too. Go to Google and type “Muhammad Yunus at Chinese University of Hong Kong”. You can easily find the video. He has also written books on social business and banking for the poor people. I hope you will learn more about him and his work, and perhaps, take part in it.