Nobel Laureate Dr Muhammad Yunus yesterday received Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award of the United States, in recognition of his efforts to combat global poverty.
The award makes Yunus only the seventh person in the history to have won both the Congressional Gold Medal and Presidential Medal of Freedom, another highest civilian award of the US which he received in 2009.
It also places him in the company of Norman Borlaug, Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela, Elie Wiesel, Aung San Suu Kyi and Mother Teresa — personalities who have received the two medals from the US as well as the Nobel Peace Prize.
“It’s very emotional. It’s not only an endorsement, but an inspiration for everybody who has supported us — colleagues and friends, staff and borrowers of the Grameen Bank, all the people who participate in social business,” a jubilant Yunus told The New York Times ahead of Wednesday’s ceremony at Washington DC.
“I’m grateful to the US Congress that it paid attention. Many people do good things that are never recognised. I’m very blessed that way,” he said, while dedicating the honour to the people of Bangladesh.
The medal was handed out by John Boehner, speaker of the US House of Representatives, at a US Capitol ceremony.
Yunus is best known for developing the concept of microcredit and using that model of lending to promote economic and social opportunity.
Through his Grameen Bank, Yunus pioneered the movement and helped hundreds of millions come out of poverty. Today, microfinance providers reach about 200 million clients globally.
In Bangladesh, the Grameen Bank, the first bank in the world owned by poor women, has 8.4 million borrowers — with 96 percent being women.
Known as the Banker to the Poor, Yunus has set up many other enterprises that offer an array of products and services to the poor, to achieve his lone ambition of eradicating poverty from the world, or, as he likes to put it, “sending poverty to museum”.
In 2010, the US Senate unanimously approved a bill to award Yunus the medal, which represents Congress’s highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievement and contribution.
Former recipients of the Congressional Gold Medal include George Washington, Sir Winston Churchill, Elie Wiesel, Pope John Paul II, Rev. Dr Martin Luther King Jr and Coretta Scott King.
In the next five years, Yunus wants to see at least 1 percent of the world economy be made up with social business, his new passion.
“If we can make that 1 percent happen, I think the world will be completely different. People will see how exciting it is, and soon the level will rise from 1 to 5 percent and pave the way to 50 percent,” he told the newspaper.
The social business is a non-dividend company dedicated to solving human problems. It allows the company to make profit, but it stays with the company. The owner will only get back the original investment, and nothing more, according to Prof Yunus.
Source: The Daily Star