Human Rights in South Asia – Muhammad Yunus

Muhammad Yunus is an economist from Bangladesh who developed the concepts of microcredit and microfinance. Microfinance supplies financial services to low-income clients or solidarity lending groups that include consumers and self-employed persons, who usually have no access to banking services. Microcredit refers to loans that are extended to individuals who lack collateral, steady employment and a verifiable credit history. The objective of these microloans is to propel entrepreneurship. The materialization of these two terms is Grameen Bank, founded by Yunus in 1983.

The name Grameen comes from a Bengali word that means ‘rural’ or ‘village’. The crux of this bank is the notion that poor people have underutilized skills. Instead of perpetuating poverty through charity, Grameen aims at exploiting the untapped potential that all human beings, regardless or social status or income, have and use it to open the doors for the poor to create the means to not only pay their debt to the bank, but to also stop being poor. It is the old ‘give a man a fish a he’ll eat for one day, teach to fish and he’ll eat every day’ proverb come to life, only instead of ‘man’ it should say ‘person’, since Grameen sees no difference in gender either, as women have also largely benefited from microcredit. Unfortunately, Yunus has been forced out of his position at the bank, claiming an alleged age limit.

Yunus attended Chittagong Collegiate School and later graduated from Chittagong College, to which he returned as a lecturer in economics, after a stint in the Bureau of Economics. A Fulbright scholarship allowed him to receive a Ph.D. in economics from Vanderbilt University in the United States of America. He also holds a position on the board of directors of the United Nations Foundation, and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.