Huffpost Business
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Vivian Norris Headshot

Why Muhammad Yunus and the Women of Grameen Matter

Posted: Updated:

There is something taking place right now in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which should have every single person on the planet prepared to fight and cry out in anger for what is more than simply unjust, but a deeply disturbing sign of how the poor will be treated in the years to come if no one speaks out. We are witnessing what is perhaps the single-most important event in terms of robbing the poorest of the poor of the hard work it took to build not only a highly successful Microcredit Bank, but also an extremely successful mobile telephone network, originally named Grameen Phone, both of which are being replicated in other poor countries, helping to eradicate poverty. And the poor were the beneficiaries of this hard work, the shareholders of the bank, thus when Grameen "profits," that means so many more poor women can be helped with microloans.

Nobel Peace Prize winner and Grameen bank founder, Dr. Muhammad Yunus, is being attacked for speaking out, and by attacking him and forcefully removing him as head of the bank the women of Grameen risk not only a run on the bank, but the destruction of the majority ownership of one of the most sustainable banks in the developing world. It is not only a slap in the face of the women's chosen Director, Yunus, but a slap in the face of the poor and poor women at that. It also demonstrates that there are those who are angry that Dr. Yunus and Grameen are setting the example of what microcredit should be, not turning it into yet another loan sharking cycle channeling profits away from the poor and into the hands of those groups which are not about making a better world but about their own interests. They are trying to tap those billions of poor folks for the billions of tiny amounts which all add up, while Yunus and Grameen are doing the opposite, putting the power and the profits into the hands of those who actually earned them. This is serious change-making behavior, which is why we need to support Dr. Yunus and Grameen, because it represents a positive force for a better future.

How many of us in the so-called "developed" world know what it feels like to be considered less valuable than a cow? How many of us hide our faces and stare at the ground because we have never been spoken to, nor asked our advice or point of view? How many of us are considered as mere statistics more than as human beings by international organizations which claim to help the poor but which in fact create webs of debt which force countries to give up elemental aspects of their freedom?

Try living as a woman in a rural village in Bangladesh, or as an HIV positive woman in the slums of Nairobi, or at the end of a dirt track somewhere on the island of Lombok... and then try creating a business to help pull yourself and your family out of dire poverty when you have no access to credit because you have no collateral. It ain't gonna happen. Not unless you have something absolutely revolutionary such as the Grameen Microcredit bank, whose lending methods and ownership by the poor structure have been replicated now in many countries.

This is NOT the kind of fictive microcredit cycle in which rich folks lend to the poor and then the rich become richer as the poor struggle to pay back absurdly high interest rates, true microcredit Grameen style is the kind of personal at your door step (or village meeting house) banking which listens to the needs of its borrowers. It is the time-consuming, painstaking caring about our fellow men and women which brings us into their worlds so that humanity is bound together because "I am Another Yourself".

The loan sharking must stop now! First they have come for the poor, next they will come for you! There are very powerful forces at work right now in this world, and greed is trying to win. It will not. Why? Because there are more of us than there are of them. The billions at "the bottom of the pyramid" will indeed have their say and be heard, because if we don't start listening, it's all over. There is no room for a self-elected elite which dictates who remains poor, who can afford to eat and who cannot. The speculation must stop. People are dying because of this. And this disturbing trend is not stopping in poor countries but is knocking at the door of the West as well where people are also suffering.

From the streets and squares of Cairo and cities in Libya to the Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin, people are speaking their mind and saying they have had enough of the greed, the financial manipulations and the abuse. Political pettiness has no place in this fight. If we are going to see true evolution and true Civil Society, we must begin with supporting the most disadvantaged in helping themselves. They know what they need. The women of Grameen educate and put the money they earn back into their families. The impoverished of the world are indeed, as Dr Yunus says, like Bonsai trees. They will not be able to grow and become all they can be if they do not have access to nourishment and encouragement. Give them access to credit, TRUST them, TRUST one another, and we will begin to see, as the women of Grameen have seen, that this world can indeed be a better place, and poverty will be put on display in a museum, where Yunus says it belongs!

Support Muhammad Yunus and Grameen:
http://www.petitiononline.com/mod_perl/signed.cgi?a110115z&51
http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/americansforyunus/
http://www.thepetitionsite.com/2/stop-harassing-nobel-laureate-prof-muhammad-yunus/
http://www.gopetition.com/petition/42857/signatures.html
And visit the Support Yunus Facebook page now.

Follow me on twitter: vivigive and visit my site: www.vigilante-vnm.com