Idea + $27 = Nobel Peace
1976 Muhammad Yunus, when taking a trip to the village of
Jobra in Bangladesh during the devastating famine of that
year, met a woman who was struggling to make ends meet as a
weaver of bamboo stools.
needed to borrow money to buy materials; but having no
assets the conventional banks shunned her. Her only option
was to turn to local money-lenders whose extortionate rates
of interest consumed nearly all her profits.
then a professor of rural economics at Chittagong
University, reached into his own pocket and gave the woman
and several of her neighbors loans totaling $27. When they
surprised him and paid back the loans, he started traveling
from village to village offering more tiny loans. And in the
process, cutting out the greedy middlemen.
led to his founding of the Grameen Bank (Grameen means
�village� in Bengali), and the rest is history. The bank has
now loaned $5.72 billion to 6.6 million Bangladeshi, 97% of
whom were women, and today provides services in more than
year Muhammad Yunus received the Nobel Peace Prize, a
long-overdue stamp of international recognition for his
accomplishment of the seemingly impossible. He enabled
millions of people to become productive, self-reliant
citizens by extending them a little credit, so they could
fight their way out of poverty and climb the economic ladder
popularized the term �microfinance,� and there are now
several web sites that enable individuals to give or lend
small amounts of money to others who post their funding
needs. One is
www.donorschoose.org, where public-school teachers
can post wish-lists for supplies and resources their budgets
won�t cover; later kids often send pictures and thank-you
notes to the donors.
but funds small charitable projects around the world, and
kiva.org connects users with loan-seeking
entrepreneurs outside the United States. At
prosper.com, those with money to lend can view
requests from U.S. residents with Social Security numbers.
(The sites all have layers of safeguards, such as verifying
hardship tales and checking terrorist databases.)