Muhammad Yunus founded the Grameen Bank thirty years ago. Grameen means "village" in Bengali. Mr. Yunus introduced his village bank concept in 1976 as a way to make collateral-free loans to help poor people start small retail businesses, such as raising poultry or operating pay telephone booths. Mr. Yunus says more than ninety percent of the loans have been made to women:
"We focused on women as a kind of reaction. . . .The conventional banking is unjust. How can a financial system reject two-thirds of the world's population? Something is wrong. We have to design a financial system that is inclusive, where nobody is rejected. Credit should be accepted as a human right."
Today, the Grameen Bank has more than two-thousand-two-hundred branch offices in Bangladesh, serving six-million member-borrowers in seventy-one-thousand villages. This year the bank expects to provide more than eight-hundred-million dollars in loans – most averaging less than one-hundred dollars. The concept pioneered by Muhammad Yunus has been expanded to include fifty-two partners in twenty-two countries in Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East.
In recognition of his work, Mr. Yunus was awarded this year's Nobel Peace Prize. Ole Danbolt, the Nobel committee chairman, says Mr. Yunus is a leader who showed that "even the poorest of the poor can work to bring about their own development":
"Lasting peace cannot be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty. Micro credit is one such means. Development from below also serves to advance democracy and human rights."
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says that Muhammad Yunus "has empowered millions through access to finance to improve their lives." She says the United States congratulates the Nobel committee "for an excellent choice for this year's laureate, to whom we also send our warmest appreciation for his outstanding work on behalf of the world's impoverished."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.