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muhammad yunusinterview with muhammad yunus

Founder of the Grameen Bank, the first large-scale micro-lending program in the world, Muhammad Yunus has transformed hundreds of thousands of lives of the poorest people in Bangladesh, and his initiatives have been instituted in countries around the world.

Q What do you hope is accomplished over the next two days?
MY Well, I'm here for the launch of the book and the play, and to meet all these fantastic people. I'd heard about many of them, some of them I knew from before, but many of them I didn't. Personally, to meet them is really an inspiring experience. So I'm looking forward to have a chance to talk to them and get inspired.

Q How did you meet Kerry Kennedy Cuomo?
MY Well I was talking to a group several years back and Kerry was sitting in that group. She really liked what we were doing, we started chatting, and that's how I came to know her.

Q Could you recap how your idea of credit and the idea of poverty as a base line to start from in dealing with human rights issues?
MY Poverty, to me, is the denial of all human rights. If you are poor you literally have no human rightsthe right to work, right to food, right to shelter, right to health, right to education. All these rights have no meaning to you. No matter how sacred those rights are, how carefully enshrined in some books of rights, to the impoverished, it makes no sense, has no meaning. So I would look at poverty as a human rights issue, number one. I got involved in with my work with credit, lending very small amounts of money to the extremely poor people, particularly to poor women. I began my work back in 1976, by giving a total of $27 to forty two people. It was an amazing experience, how excited all those people were to receive that money. And that made me wonder, if you can bring so much happiness and so much excitement in so many people, with such a small amount of money, why shouldn't you do more of it? So I got involved. And ever since I've been doing that. Today we have 2.4 million borrowers in Bangladesh through our banks. Ninety-five percent of our borrowers are women, extremely poor women when they join. They receive tiny loans and start generating income for herself and for the family. They improve the quality of life for the family along the way and she discovers her own ability in the process. This is another human right, to be able to explore one's own potential. If you are denying that right to a person, that person is no different than another animal. Not knowing that she has the human abilities, to not only take care of herself but also to contribute in the total capability of mankind. That facility is not available to poor people. I am saying that credit should be accepted as a human right because that's the beginning of all the human rights. Because if you're talking about the right to food, right to shelter, right to education and health, you can't get those rights established until you create your own income strength. And credit opens up the difficult extreme by allowing yourself to create self employment, to start earning your own, taking care of yourself and then once you have the income, you can have the right to food, right to shelter and whatever other rights you can have with the ability of purchasing power.

Q What is your sense of where the human race is, taking into account globalization, and the economic and technological changes that are happening so quickly?
MY We're entering into a very exciting phase of human history. Human beings have never had as much capability to conquer their problems as they have right now, with information technology and other technologies—biotechnologies and other things. What kind of use are we going to make of these technologies? That's a big, challenging question. I'm saying that with this capability that human beings have now created and continue to create and frustrate, we should be addressing the issue of poverty. If we bring information technology to the service of the poor women, she could change her own life. So this is an exciting fact that we can really create a poverty-free world, right in this century. The things that we could not have done in previous centuries, old years of human history.

Q Do you believe it is possible to live in a poverty free world? Can we finally take that step?
MY I'm totally convinced that we create a poverty free world, where nobody will suffer the indignity of being poor . There are different types of people in the income level. But we are talking about the bottom. Bottom doesn't have to be poverty. Bottom could be somewhere you are self-sufficient, you can take care of yourself, but you are not as rich as Bill Gates. All your needs are taken care of—no reason why somebody has to live like a cockroach. Having no shelter, no food, no future, no tomorrow. This is not a human life. Human life is incomplete without human dignity. And if you are poor, you don't have human dignity. There is no difference between an animal and a poor person. So how can we bring that poverty into this century, with all its enormous resources, enormous technology, enormous good will and not take care of that? I think if we just put our mind into this issue right now, with information technology, with other technologies, we would very soon—before we even come to the end of the century—create a poverty free world. We must.


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