Champions of Human Rights
Muhammad Yunus (b. 1940)
Economist and Nobel Peace Laureate Muhammad Yunus has become internationally renowned for his revolutionary system of micro-credit (small loans to entrepreneurs too poor to qualify for traditional bank loans) that has helped millions to escape poverty.
Born in the seaport city of Chittagong, Bangladesh, Yunus’ life is motivated by his vision of a world without poverty. It began in 1976, when he saw village basket weavers living in abject poverty despite their skill. Considered poor credit risks, the artisans were forced to borrow money at high interest rates to purchase bamboo and made no profit after repaying moneylenders. From his own pocket, Yunus made a loan to a group of women who repaid the funds and, for the first time, made a small profit. Yunus realized that by means of small loans and financial services, he could help the poor free themselves from poverty.
In 1983, he established the Grameen (Village) Bank, founded on his conviction that credit is a fundamental human right. Through the last quarter of a century, the bank has stood as the flagship of a 100-country network of similar institutions, enabling millions to escape poverty through individual economic empowerment.
Professor Yunus is a member of the board of the United Nations Foundation and has received numerous international awards for his humanitarian endeavors.