Monday, October 16, 2006

Making a Difference

I was so thrilled on October 13th to turn on my computer and see among the the top 5 headlines: Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank of Bangladesh win Nobel Peace Prize.

I wanted to jump up and down with joy - in fact I did a little!

What a great achievement! Sure, a nobel peace prize is given out every year, but this one was different for me ... obviously the first connection is that he's Bangladeshi. The second thing is that what Yunus has achieved really shows that change is possible ... that you can make a difference, even if it's a small one. We all have this power in our hands.

Yunus started a micro-banking system about 30 years ago. He gave small loans (e.g. $9) to poor village women (note: he started giving the loan to men first, but then found that they could not handle the money, so then he started lending only to women). With this money they were told to do something - anything - start a trade, buy some material, hire someone to do something if they didn't have the skill. They were to pay back the money whenever they could - no interest, no penalities, nothing ... and what happened? These women who were in desperate situations started their own small businesses. They didn't have to take to the streets and beg. They could work and earn money and take care of the family.

They had responsibilities and they carried out their work with pride.

My favorite quote from him is:
"You cannot go on having absurd amounts of wealth when other people have problems of survival," he said. "If you can bring an end to poverty, at least from an economic point of view, you can have a more livable situation between very rich people and very poor people, very rich countries and very poor countries. That's our basic ingredient for peace."

I think, if people properly gave their annual 2.5% zakaat (charity money in Islam) then so much could be done. I'm not saying eliminate poverty or anything like that ... I'm talking about taking little steps - but all leading to the right direction. Even if you eliminate the religious aspect of it, you can't say that giving for charity is not good. How can we, who have so much, not open our hands a little to make a difference?

The Bangladesh government is in such a pitiful state ... but what I have seen year after year is that individuals are using their own money to better their neighborhood, their streets etc. etc. It's so great when you see people willing to spend a little of their own money to help other people -- and not just other people, but these steps help the country as well.

So Yunus has shown that if you try and if you want to ... you can make a difference.


zebs said...

everyone in Bangladesh is on a high. it's so awesome to see. from the people on the streets to the villages to the big cities. finally, Bangladesh will be a country that people have heard about and not a country that you need to explain as - the one next to india! thank God for this amazing turn of events.
yes, we can all make a difference.

PlumPetals said...

The word still needs to spread more. People are too caught up in their own lives, trying to make it from day to day to realize these big things that are happening around the world. It's really a fantastic thing. Especially to see Yunus' face on the cover of Arab Times 'Banker to the Poor Wins Nobel Peace Prize' -- Awesome!

ramsis said...

He's put Bangladesh on the map!