“Create, Don’t Seek” A piece on Muhammad Yunus
by Aanya F Niaz
Published digitally in iWrite, Pakitan’s First English Academic Newsletter
Nobel Peace Prize Winner of 2006 and the Father of Micro credit financing, Muhammad Yunus visited my University in September. Not only did he leave each student in awe, but more importantly, left a taste of wonder in our minds. The question he steadily arose and addressed in his speech was about the creativity of man. Since we were hunters and gatherers, man has hunted and found a way to survive. Today, our survival is based on the job opportunities offered to us by the world. What happened to our imaginative and innovative skills? Muhammad Yunus offers us a brilliant example: Micro credit financing, which is providing non-interest loans to the extremely poor of a society. His world famous bank, the Grameen Bank runs on the loyalties and hard work of the poor. Majority of the customers are women. They take a loan, start a small-scale business of breeding hens and selling them, return the loan, take a larger one to take their income to a higher level and so on and so forth. While we are at the beck and call of multi national companies to offer us a shelter, these poverty stricken poor women are feeding themselves. Why? Because these women are not afraid to create and explore their own potential. In fact, Muhammad Yunus stated that poverty is not created by the poor, but by the system. It is crucial to recognize our persistent dependence upon the system to cater to the needs of the elite minority. But while we feed the system, we are actually increasing the extreme disparity in our populations. We are in turn, becoming reasons for the increasing numbers of the poor. Until and unless, we take matters into our hands by forming and initiating careers of our own, we only succumb to the society, which conveniently leaves the poor behind. Muhammad Yunus said: “16,000 beggars took loans from the Grameen Bank and today, 8,000 of them do not even beg any longer.” What these individuals are doing with the little amount they are allowed to borrow is unbelievable; as they return to take more and more. The entire bank system is based on them and their diligent mindsets to improve their lives. They do not only recognize the problem, but also want to participate in the solution. If we can give limited resources of money to the poor and achieve such results, it is an unfortunate reality that the rich continue in failing to generate various trades and occupations for themselves.
Today, the world stands in a very vulnerable position; we seem to be hindering our own progress by resorting to complete dependence upon companies accepting us. Instead of finding our own place, we are fitting into ready-made molds of the definition of careers and professionalism. Unique identity of individualism is at loss. The ‘fortunate’ ones continue to graduate from high-level universities but find themselves in the same state of boredom and dissatisfaction. Whereas, in areas where micro credit financing is active, the poor and hungry are developing their own facet of professionalism, one which not only feeds them, but exercises their minds to think at a higher level, improving their quality of life. His speech was one offering multiple lessons. Questioning our stagnant mindsets and repetitive visions of our future, first Mr. Yunus reminded us that it is never too late to find our place in the world. Second, our fate is not necessarily entwined with the size of our wallets, but our minds and innovation skills. Third, he provoked us to explore options we would otherwise render undoable. His personal story is one that encourages us to take the road less traveled. He was not a banker or a finance specialist, but developing micro credit financing which positively affects over 40 million people today is due to him taking a leap and doing something different. Fear must become our enemy and risks our best friend.
Another subject he tied into the notion of creativity was the greatness of advancing technology. Soon, he said, we will be able to use cellular phones to carry out ultra sounds on pregnant women who reside in far-off villages. They need not suffer because we have the potential to invent gadgets that can save lives around the world without even our physical presence. All we need is an open mind and a willingness to expand our horizons. As I enter year 2010, the Nobel Laureate’s words resonate in my head as I put pieces of life together; my education, my family, experiences and what I hope to achieve from life. Significantly, I have lost all hesitation when it comes to changing my path and this time, creating my own.