Grameen Bank: a Nobel Laureate’s Kind of Bank
He could very well have made a fortune by investing in the stock market. As an economist, he knew the movement of money. But what powerful force drove this mild-mannered man to serve the desolate population of Bangladesh?
If he was in pursuit of fame, then what more fame did this Nobel Prize recipient need? If he was after recognition, he certainly could have stopped by now. The man has over one-hundred awards from international organizations and institutions; at 72 years old, he could retire from serving others and bothering to solve other’s problems. Just recently, he was forced to leave his position in the Grameen Bank, which he founded himself, on grounds of seniority.
Grameen Bank is the “bank of the poor.” Unlike typical banks, it lends money to people who are in dire need of financial help regardless of their capacity to pay. Muhammad Yunus founded the Grameen Bank in order to assist those who stand no chance of getting loans from other banks because they are deemed too poor to pay.
If you’re the kind of person who liberates people from the oppression of poverty, you become a threat to those who call the shots in the world of finance; as such, Muhammad Yunus’s ousting was not without malice.
Despite this, Yunus continues his fight to be reinstated so he can again have a share of other people’s burden. What an extraordinary individual!
Muhammad Yunus’s Family Background
On June 28th, 1940, Sufia Khatun gave birth to her and husband Hazi Dula Mia Shoudagar’s third child, Muhammad Yunus, in the suburbs of Chittagong, Bangladesh. When he was four years old, their family moved to the city. Yunus came from a big Muslim family, and had eight siblings.
He ranked number 16 among the 39,000 students who took the entrance exam to Chittagong Collegiate School. Even as a teenager, he was able to travel extensively due to his active participation in jamborees as a Boy Scout. Receiving acting awards was among his accomplishments for regularly taking part in cultural activities.
His academic achievements continued to add up, even as he started college at Dhaka University as an Economics student in 1957. In three years’ time, Yunus completed his Bachelor’s degree, and finished his Master’s in 1961.
He started out as a lecturer at Chittagong College in the same year he graduated, while moonlighting in the packaging business. In 1965, Yunus accepted a Fulbright Scholarship offer and completed his Doctorate degree in 1971 at the University of Vanderbilt in Tennessee.
He was living a peaceful life as an Economics assistant professor in Middle Tennessee State University with his then-wife, Vera Forostenko, whom he married in 1971. But then the Liberation War broke out in Bangladesh.
He remotely organized funding for the liberation and allowed publication of the Bangladesh Newsletter in his Nashville home. His efforts did not go unnoticed, and he was given a position in the Planning Commission when he returned to Bangladesh after the war.
Yunus was not so thrilled with clerical jobs. He decided to leave his post, and instead became the head of Chittagong University’s Economics Department. His position in the university resulted in his involvement with many poverty reduction campaigns; in 1975, he began organizing programs which would later be adopted by the Bangladesh Government to help fight poverty across the country.
Settling Others’ Debts
It was not until he witnessed the miserable lives of the people in the village near his university in 1971 that he realized how much help they needed. He was aghast to see how inhumanely the moneylenders treated the basket weavers for a total meager loan of only 27 dollars. So he paid what they owed out of his own pocket, thinking that they would have better chances to profit if he freed them from their accountabilities.
The 42 women he saved from debt were very grateful, and he was elated to help them. But he wanted to do more for the people. Yunus thought of employing the banks’ help to provide more financial assistance to the poor people of the village. What he considered a brilliant and a noble idea, however, was dismissed as irrational by the bankers.
Apparently, the banks didn’t want to lend to those who obviously needed money but did not have the means to pay. Yunus belligerently disagreed because he was certain that those people needed funding to be able to generate income and become self-sufficient. But the bankers would not have any of his appeal about trusting and giving people a chance to get out of poverty.
Yunus was far from giving up. He changed strategies and spoke to the bankers using economic parlance. He convinced them to lend people money by volunteering as their guarantor; that way, the banks would allow the people to borrow money since they had Yunus’s name and “money” at stake.
Much to Yunus’s delight, he didn’t have to spend a dime because the borrowers diligently paid off their debts. After repeatedly succeeding in several other villages, Yunus was convinced that he could use the concept to address the plight of what society labeled as nuisances for their incapacity to earn money and pay taxes.
Founding the Grameen Bank
In 1983, with a total of 28,000 members, the pilot project became a full-blown program which went by the name of “Grameen Bank.” Since its inception, the “bank of the poor” has been beset by allegations ranging from leftists questioning its motives to clergies condemning women who dared to seek help from the organization without their husbands’ consent. Yet, Yunus ignored the controversies and focused on his rapidly-growing project.
Monica and Deena Yunus
While everything was going well with his venture, he and Vera divorced months after their daughter, Monica Yunus, was born in 1979. Yunus would later marry Afrozi Yunus, a Physics researcher at Manchester University, with whom he fathered his second child, Deena Afroz Yunus, in 1986.
Social Business at its Best
The “success” of Grameen Bank was uplifting for Yunus, who also continued to find new ways to teach people how to fish. Yunus defined the term “social business” and lived it. With Grameen Bank’s success, he was able to facilitate businesses that were not geared toward gaining dividends, but instead operated to help conquer social problems.
More non-profit ventures and projects came from Grameen Bank’s unique design to help people, such as the Grameen Fund, Grameen Trust and Grameen Telecom, among many others. Yunus became a recipient of countless awards for the bank’s phenomenal success; one of the most notable was the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996.
At present time, he is still doing well in doing well!
- Grameen Bank
- United Nations Foundation
- Grameen Creative Lab
- Glasgow Caledonian University
- Rikkyo University
- Kyushu University
- Yunus Centre, AIT, Thailand
- HEC Paris
- California State University- Channel Islands- Institute of Social Business
- Zayed University, Abu Dhabi
- MIT Yunus Challenge
- Asian University for Women
- Yunus Social Business Centre at University of Florence
- Shahjalal University of Science and Technology
- Global Elders
- Africa Progress Panel
- SNV Netherlands Development Organisation International Advisory Board
- Broadband Commission for Digital Development
- Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction
- Yunus Centre
- Yunus Social Business - Global Initiatives
- Yunus Social Business Centre University of Florence
- The Grameen Creative Lab
- Social Business Earth
- 1984: Recipient of the “Ramon Magsaysay Award”
- 1987: Received the “lndependence Day Award”
- 1993: Received the “Mohamed Shabdeen Award for Science” and the “Humanitarian Award”
- 1994: Awarded the “World Food Prize”
- 2000: Received the “King Hussein Humanitarian Leadership Award”
- 2003: Received the “Volvo Environment Prize”
- 2004: Received the “Nikkei Asia Prize for Regional Growth”
- 2006: Received the Nobel Peace Prize, the “Franklin D. Roosevelt Freedom Award,” the “Seoul Peace Prize,” the “Shera Bangalee” by ETV and the “Disaster Mitigation Award” from FIRST INDIA Disaster Management Congress
- 2006: Cited by Time Magazine as one of the “Top 12 Business Leaders” and included in their “60 Years of Asian Heroes.”
- 2007: Received: the “Award for U.N. South-South Cooperation” from the United Nations, the Medal of Honor by Santa Catrina State, the “First AHPADA Global Award” from ASEAN Handicraft Promotion and Development Association, the “Sakaal Person of the Year Award” by the Sakaal Group of Publications, the “Rubin Museum Mandala Award” from the Rubin Museum, the “Vision Award” from the Global Economic Network, the “Nichols-Chancellor’s Medal” from Vanderbilt University, the “Rabindra Nath Tagore Birth Centenary Plaque” from the Asiatic Society, the “RED CROSS Gold Medal” from the Red Cross Society, the “Global Entrepreneurship Leader Award” from the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship, the “Social Entrepreneur Award” from the Geoffrey Palmer Center for Social Entrepreneurship and the Law, the “ABICC Award for Leadership in Global Trade” from ABICC and the “Global Trailblazer Award” from Vital Voices
- 2008: Received the World Affairs Council Award” from the World Affairs Council of Northern California, the “Global Humanitarian Award” from Tech Museum, the “AGI International Science Award” from the University of Cologne (Germany), the “Friend of Children Award” from Save the Children (Spain), the “Humanitarian Award” from the International Association of Lions Clubs, the “Annual Award for Development” from the OPEC Fund for International Development, the “Human Security Award” from the Muslim Public Affairs Council, the President's Medal from Lehman College, the Chancellor's Medal from York College, the “Project Concern Award” from Project Concern International, the “Corine International Book Award” from the Bavarian Government, and ranked 2nd place on the list of the “Top 100 Public Intellectuals”
- 2009: Received the “Estoril Global Issues Distinguished Book Prize,” the “Bayreuth Leadership Award from The Philosophy and Economics Program of the University of Bayreuth, the “PICMET Award” from The Executive Committee of PICMET, the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama, the “Golden Biatec Award” by the Economic Club and the “Dwight D. Eisenhower Medal for Leadership and Service” from the Eisenhower Fellowships
- 2010: Awarded the “SolarWorld Einstein Award”
- 2012: Became Chancellor of Glasgow Caledonia University (Scotland)
- 2013: Awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by the United States Congress
- Cited as one of “The 25 Most Influential Business Persons of the Past 25 Years” by Wharton School of Business for PBS documentary
- 1992: Degree of Doctor of Letters, University of East Anglia, UK
- 1993: Doctor of Humanities, Oberlin College, USA
- 1995: Doctor of Law, University of Toronto, Canada
- 1996: Doctor of Law, Haverford College, USA
- 1996: Doctor of Law, Warwick University, UK
- 1997: Doctor of Public Service, Saint Xavier’s' University, USA
- 1998: Doctor of Civil Law, University of the South, USA
- 1998: Doctor Honoris Causa, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium
- 1998: Doctor of Social Science, Yale University, USA
- 1998: Doctor of Science in Economics, Brigham Young University, USA
- 1998: Doctor of Science in Economics, University of Sydney, Australia
- 2000: Doctor of the University, Queensland University of Technology, Australia
- 2000: Doctor in Economics and Business, University of Turin, Italy
- 2001: Named Ashoka: Innovators for the Public Global Academy Member
- 2002: Humane Letters, Colgate University, USA
- 2003: Doctor Honoris Causa, University Catholique of Louvain, Belgium
- 2003: Doctor Honoris Causa, Universitad Nacional De Cuyo, Argentina
- 2003: Doctor of Economics, University of Natal, South Africa
- 2004: Honoris Causa, Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswayvidyalaya, India
- 2004: Doctor of Technology, Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand
- 2004: Doctor in Business Economics, University of Florence, Italy
- 2004: Doctor in Pedagogyst, University of Bologna, Italy
- 2004: Doctor Honoris Causa, Universidad Complutense, Italy
- 2006: Honorary Doctorate Degree in Economics, University of Venda, South Africa
- 2006: Doctor of Humane Letters, American University of Beirut, Lebanon
- 2006: Doctor of Honoris Causa, University of Alicante in Valencia, Spain
- 2006: Doctor of Honoris Causa, University of Valencia, Spain
- 2006: Doctor of Honoris Causa, University of Jaume I in Valencia, Spain
- 2007: Doctor of Laws, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh
- 2007: Doctor of Humanities, Rikkyo University, Japan
- 2007: Doctor of Economics, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Malaysia
- 2007: Doctor of Philosophy, Ewha Womans University, Korea
- 2007: Doctor of Humanities, Earth University, Costa Rica
- 2008: Honorary Degree, Regis University, USA
- 2008: Honorary Degree, University of British Columbia, Canada
- 2008: Honorary Doctorate Degree, Moscow State University, Russia
- 2008: Degree in Science of Cooperation and Development, Sapienza University of Rome, Italy
- 2008: Doctorate of Letters (D. Litt), Glasgow Caledonia University, UK
- 2008: Honorary Degree of Doctorate, University of Glasgow, UK
- 2009: Honorary Degree, Kobe University, Japan
- 2009: Doctor of Laws, University of Pennsylvania, USA
- 2009: Honorary Degree, Hokkaido University, Japan
- 2009: Honorary Degree of Doctorate, Istanbul Commerce University, Turkey
- 2010: Doctor of Humane Letters, Duke University, USA
- 2010: Honorary Degree of Doctorate, Kwansei Guakin University, Japan
- 2010: Doctor of Laws, Carleton University, Canada
- 2010: Doctor Honoris Causa, San Ignacio de Loyola University, Peru
- 2010: Doctor Honoris Causa, Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, Peru
- 2010: Doctor Honoris Causa, University of Mons, Belgium
- 2011: Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science (Economics), London School of Economics, UK
- 2012: Doctor of Letters, Emory University, USA