|Nobel peace laureate Muhammad Yunus speaks during a press conference shortly after opening ceremony of Grameen International Conference on Micro-credit in Beijing, October 22, 2006|
The Nobel Peace Prize for two thousand six was awarded earlier this month to economist Muhammad Yunus and his Bangladeshi microfinance organization, the Grameen Bank. The bank lends small amounts of money to poor people, especially women, who are unable to get traditional loans. Mister Yunus says he started Grameen because he wanted to see if banking could be done without collateral. Collateral, such as property or investments, secures the repayment of traditional loans.
The Grameen bank, however, does not ask for guarantees or repayment in land or other property if the borrower is not able to repay the loan. A person's promise to repay the loans is all that is needed. No one is rejected for a loan. This trust has resulted in a near perfect loan repayment rate during the bank's thirty-year history.
Since Grameen's launch in nineteen seventy-six, the idea of micro-financing for the poor has spread to other countries. In the United States, for example, small loan programs are serving poor Native Americans living on protected land. Farming communities and poor city areas have also seen a rise in micro-financing organizations. The Seattle non-profit group Washington CASH is one example. This group provides small loans to single mothers, refugees and former criminals.
Today, the Grameen Bank has about six million borrowers in seventy thousand villages throughout Bangladesh. Ninety-seven percent of the loans go to poor women. An average loan equals less than one hundred dollars. The bank expects to provide more than eight hundred million dollars in loans this year. In addition, the bank gives about thirty thousand financial awards to poor students each year.
Worldwide, the Grameen Foundation has established relationships with fifty-two partners in twenty-two countries. Millions of people in Africa, Central and South America, and the Middle East have received assistance.
Mister Yunus says he believes credit should be considered a human right. He says money is power. The economist believes poverty would end if the world could create a system of credit for poor people.
And that's the VOA Special English Development Report, written by Jill Moss. To read the text of this program and download audio, go to voaspecialenglish.com. I’m Steve Ember.