Harnessing the power of the market to help solve the problems of global poverty, hunger and inequality is both possible and necessary, a Nobel Peace Prize winner told an invited audience of specialists in London on Thursday night.
Professor Muhammad Yunus is doing what some have regarded as squaring the circle through microfinance: the innovative social banking programme that provides people who are poor, mainly women, with small loans which they use to launch businesses and lift their families out of poverty.
Patrick Hynes from Oikocredit, which is seeking new investors in Britain, was at the event, one of the Professor Yunus’s recent series of talks to promote his new book.
At this meeting of the Microfinance Club UK, Yunus outlined his vision of Social Business, and recounted inspiring personal stories of the people who want to “put poverty in a museum”.
Hynes told Ekklesia: "It was fascinating to hear Professor Yunus speak, reflecting on the success of the Grameen microfinance bank he founded. It is remarkable that due to this social bank, Bangladesh is on target to reach UN Millennium Goal One: to halve the number of people living in extreme poverty and hunger."
He continued, "the professor gave some wonderful insights into some of the lives of the now second generation Grameen borrowers. He talked of a mother who was illiterate: who took out a loan for her business and then later for her daughter’s education. The daughter is now a medical doctor."
Yunus declared, “I look at the mother and I think: she could have been a doctor too. I meet the grandmother and I think the same the thing”.
This simple message is at the very heart of the life changing work of microfinance, he explained. “Poverty is the fault of the system and not the people. Being an entrepreneur, a student, a doctor, has nothing to do with being special. It is about opportunity”.
Oikocredit's Patrick Hynes said: "These are extraordinary stories from a humble man who has dedicated his live to creating a world without poverty. Stories of the triumph of hope, in the face of a seemingly impossible task."
"If you want to be inspired I recommend his book, Banker to the Poor, which tells the whole story. Of course, the new book is also now available, Creating a World Without Poverty," he said.
Hynes added: "If you want to take action, then why not consider investing in Grameen, and the other microfinance institutions who are creating opportunities for people. In the UK an investment in microfinance can be made through the Oikocredit International Share Foundation."
More about Oikocredit, a co-operative partnership involving churches and otherss, is available here: www.oikocredit.org.uk