Friday, October 13, 2006

A Worthy Recipient

OSLO (Reuters) - Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank he founded won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for grassroots efforts to lift millions out of poverty that earned him the nickname "banker to the poor".

Yunus, 66, set up a new kind of bank in 1976 to lend to the neediest, particularly women, in his native Bangladesh, enabling them to start up small businesses without collateral.

In doing so, he pioneered microcredit, a system copied in more than 100 nations from the United States to Uganda.
The first time I'd heard of "microbanking" was during the Clinton may recall those eight years, of unparalleled peace and prosperity when everyone was making enough money to live on and not trying to make ends meet so hard? connection with creative ways to help Africa out of its economic doldrums and helping it create a viable lasting free market economy.

You know, like how Democrats always help people by getting obstacles out of their way?

I'd never paid much attention to that kind of microeconomic application before, but what caught my ear was the fact that the program targeted women in particular as recipients of its assistance.

The world is tough for women, hell, even AMERICA is tough for women (some would argue it's tougher here for a woman than in most Western European countries...and I couldn't give much of an argument there), to make it on their own. Prima facie evidence suggests that it will continue to be tough for generations, in America, and centuries, worldwide. But programs like Yunus' can shorten the gap.

Empower a man, and you make him more competitive with the other men around him.

Empower a woman, and she can change the world.

It really is that simple. This program can help eradicate poverty, feed the hungry, clothe those who need clothes and shelter those in need of shelter.
Returning from a Fulbright scholarship in the United States, Yunus was shaken by the 1974 Bangladesh famine and headed out into the villages to see what he could do.

He found the region's women in severe debt to extortionate moneylenders. His initial goal was simply to persuade a local bank manager to give villagers regular credit, but the banker said that was impossible without a guarantee.

Yunus set out to prove him wrong and never looked back. Grameen -- the word means "village" or "rural" in the Bangla language -- has lent $5.72 billion since it began. Of this, $5.07 billion has been repaid.

The bank, which has turned a profit in all but three years, lends to 6.6 million people, 96 percent of them women, and has not received donor funds in eight years. It counts beggars among its members, giving them interest-free loans and life insurance.

Today the bank is 94 percent owned by the rural poor it serves and 6 percent by the government.
Much like American "foreign aid" to Third World nations, debt engendered servitude to a power far greater than any individual could fight. Whether it's the IMF, the World Bank, or the local loan shark, what can one person (or one country) do to stem the tide of blood that must be paid back with these promises?

"One" cannot. But "one" as a part of many, can. Find the sisters and brothers who can hear all the truth in what you say. Go. Do it. This weekend. The time has come for the world to rise as one. We can end hunger. We can end poverty. We can end terrorism, and warfare and countless thousands of ills of the planet. But it starts with one. Muhammad Yunus got it, and ran with it, and look at what he's created.

Bonus Friday Music Blogging: In honor of Muhammad Yunus, and women of the world.