Pioneering Organization Lauds Norwegian Nobel Committee For Recognizing Microfinance’s Role in Poverty Alleviation
Oak Brook, Ill. – October 13, 2006 – Today, we give thanks and congratulations for the award of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize to Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank, our fellow pioneers in the development of microfinance as a proven, long-term solution to poverty.
We also thank the Norwegian Nobel Committee for recognizing the role that microfinance is playing today in alleviating poverty throughout the world. In its award, the Committee said, “Micro-credit has proved to be an important liberating force in societies where women in particular have to struggle against repressive social and economic conditions.”
How true. Grameen Bank, founded by Muhammad Yunus in 1976, and Opportunity International, founded in 1971, are two of the pioneers that began by giving small loans – sometimes as little as $50 – to poor entrepreneurs in some of the world’s poorest countries. The simple but revolutionary concept has taken root in many part s of the developing world, and today some estimate there are 10,000 or more organizations involved.
The Nobel Committee also observed: “Every single individual on earth has both the potential and the right to live a decent life. Across cultures and civilizations, Yunus and Grameen Bank have shown that even the poorest of the poor can work to bring about their own development.”
At Opportunity, we have worked with millions of individuals who have done this. I’d like to tell you about just one of them.
Dorothy Njobvu Kanjautso is a 34-year-old widow from an impoverished village outside of Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. When Dorothy’s husband died, she was unable to provide for her three children. In 2002, Dorothy received her first loan of $133 from Opportunity International. She used the money to build the Ketava Nursery and Primary school to serve very poor children from her village and to provide for her children’s needs. Dorothy’s school started with 10 children. With subsequent loans, Dorothy was able to hire teachers and increase her classroom space. Today, Dorothy employs seven teachers, has four classrooms with nearly 200 students including 10 orphans whom she educates at no cost. Not only does Dorothy provide for her own three children, but she cares for three AIDS orphans and also supports her mother.
The appeal of microfinance is that it gives a hand up, not a hand out. The impact of one small loan to a woman like Dorothy can affect the lives of hundreds of others, raising their quality of life by enabling them to access food, medicine and education for themselves.
Now more than ever, we are in a position to change the world. Opportunity International recently announced a bold plan to mobilize $1 billion over the next seven years to help 100 million people work their way out of poverty by 2015. It is an ambitious but attainable goal, thanks to the generous contributions of our individual donors and grants from organizations such as the Lenovo Corporation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Caterpillar and the Levi Strauss Foundation.
We invite everyone to learn more about microfinance and the many innovations that are taking place to provide complete banking services and insurance to the poorest of the poor.
We pay tribute to the leadership and vision of Muhammad Yunus and the foresight of the Nobel Committee for its selection today.