#269. Dr. Muhammad Yunus

Posted on | The Agurban

Dr. Muhammad Yunus

Our local CEO (Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities) class had a rare treat this week. The 19 students, their teachers, and other supporters had the privilege to attend an event in Champaign, IL, where Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus spoke.
Thanks to Bob Schultz, who attended with the class, for this account:

Dr. Yunus was a young economist in impoverished Bangladesh in the 1970’s, when he developed the concept of micro-lending, essentially loaning small amounts of money to poor people so that they could start their own business.

Specifically, Dr. Yunus was driven to give opportunity to the poor women of Bangladesh by making them entrepreneurs.  A loan of less than $25 allowed a single woman to purchase a used sewing machine, so that she could make clothes to sell.  Similarly, women were offered a small loan to purchase a rudimentary oven to start a small bakery.  

Dr. Yunus’ concept worked.  Today, his bank, The Grameen Bank, makes an average of $1.2 billion in loans every year.  The average sized loan?  $20!!   And millions have been lifted out of poverty.

The first part of his journey was the creation of his incredible bank and opportunities for the newly minted entrepreneurs.  The second part was equally fascinating.

Dr. Yunus recognized that many of his borrowers were escaping generations of poverty.  But to insure that escape, he promoted education, with both a carrot and a stick.  First, he required, that to remain eligible for a loan, the children of his customers must stay in school.  (Call that the stick).  And, children graduating from high school were then eligible for Grameen Bank student loans (the carrot).  The results were incredible.

One quick story he noted was of the illiterate mother who used a small loan to build a small business enterprise.  Because of Dr. Yunus’ carrot and stick approach, the illiterate mother’s daughter is the community physician just one village away.  From illiteracy to medical doctor in just one generation, simply by requiring responsibility from those receiving a loan.  Pretty remarkable.

The students were later asked for their thoughts on what they heard from Dr. Yunus. A couple of student comments are below:

“The speech that we attended on Monday night was amazing. Mr. Yunus had so much insight to how this micro-lending would help to pull the world out of poverty, not all at once, but one person at a time. He had a sort of attraction about him, that made you want to continue listening to him as he continued to speak. He has such a way with words that the hour seemed to fly by. This is a man that everyone should listen to at least once in their lives. Thanks.” Russell H.

“It was simply amazing to listen to Muhammad Yunus speak.  He relayed to us the deep importance of Social Entrepreneurship, and spoke of why we should begin our social work right now.  You could tell by the passion in his voice that he will never be content with his work until every child is fed, every family has a home, and every human being is given a chance.” John S.

“Listening to Muhammad Yunus, winner of a Nobel Peace Prize, speak was such a great experience. He is an inspiring, humble man, and what he has done for his country and spread throughout the world is a great example for all.”  Anne W.