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  best of 2009 please help sam daley-harris place this op-ed (queries chris.macrae @yahoo.co.uk)

 A Champion of Yes We Can
Sam Daley-Harris

August 2009

When President Barack Obama presents the Medal of Freedom to 16 distinguished American and international ‘agents of change’ at a White House ceremony on August 12, one of the honourees will link him to both his past and to the future he is so committed to creating.

Among the 16 leaders who will receive America’s highest civilian honour is Professor Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, which makes tiny loans for self-employment to some of the poorest people in that country. Prof Yunus is also one of the world’s most effective champions of the ‘yes we can’ spirit.

Decades ago, the economics professor and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate 
described his search for new bank clients as a process of “looking for the most timid.”

He wasn’t looking for the villagers who were the first to step forward to ask for a micro-loan starting at less than $10, he was looking for those who were last to come forward and who trusted their abilities the least. To those 
villagers he and his staff would say, ‘Yes you can.’

Thirty-three years later, nearly eight million members of Grameen Bank (a total of 40 million when you count their family members) are saying ‘yes we can’ to the whole world.

Since its inception, Grameen Bank has lent more than $8 billion to the poor in Bangladesh.

So how does one start an enterprise that reaches nearly 40 million people in one’s own country and touches 
the lives of tens of millions more in replications around the world? Dr. Yunus had his own ‘yes we can’ moment as a young economics professor who faced an agonising famine that left him doubting his value as a teacher and as a human being.

He was so shaken by the sight of people dying of starvation that when he set foot into Jobra, the village next to his campus, all he wanted to do was to see if he could be of use to one person for one day — not 40 million — just one. It was in that village that he met a stool maker who horrified him when she explained that she earned only two cents a day for her beautiful craftsmanship. With no money to buy the bamboo she needed, Sufia Khatun was forced to borrow from a money-lender who 
demanded that she sell her finished stools back to him at a price he set — a price so low that she made only two cents a day profit.

When he asked whether she could earn more if she was freed from the moneylender, she told him, ‘Yes I can.’ Professor Yunus had a student look for other villagers who were in the same dilemma. The student found 42 people who needed a grand total of $27 to pay-off the moneylender, buy their raw materials, and sell their wares to the highest bidder. That’s right; all they needed was an average of 68 cents each. With her loan of less than $1 the stool-maker’s profits soared from two cents a day to $1.25 a day. Now Prof Yunus has set his sights on titans of business and industry with his social business concept and the chairmen of Dannone, Intel, and BASF are beating a ‘yes we can’ path to his door to create new non-profit/non-loss businesses that have as their sole goal improving people’s lives.

The corporations can recover their initial investments in the social businesses, but after that, all profits are plowed back into these new companies. They include a joint venture with 
Danone producing nutritionally fortified yogurt for malnourished villagers, another with BASF producing chemically treated bed-nets to protect people from mosquitoes carrying malaria, and still another with Intel bringing 
information technology solutions to rural villages.

When the US President shakes the hand of the Bangladeshi micro-banker at the White House ceremony this week, Mr Obama will be touching his own past and the microfinance work his mother did in Indonesia. And when Professor Yunus opens the Microcredit Summit next April in Nairobi, Kenya, the micro-banker from Bangladesh will launch the next phase of microfinance in the birthplace of Mr Obama’s father and throughout the continent.

President Obama should accompany Muhammad Yunus to that Summit in Kenya to join in the micro-banker’s most inspiring appeal — a daring call to put poverty in the museums where it belongs.

Yes we can!

Sam Daley-Harris is Founder of the Microcredit Summit Campaign which seeks to reach 175 million poorest families with microcredit

  nominating yunus & congressional gold medal

Mr. DURBIN (for himself, Mr. BENNETT, Mr. KERRY, Mr. CASEY, Ms. SNOWE, Mrs. MURRAY, Mr. WHITEHOUSE, Ms. MURKOWSKI, Mr. BINGAMAN, Mr. FEINGOLD, Mr. ENZI, and Mr. PRYOR) introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs

A BILL

To award a congressional gold medal to Dr. Muhammad Yunus, in recognition of his contributions to the fight against global poverty.

      Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. FINDINGS.

      The Congress finds that--

            (1) Dr. Muhammad Yunus is recognized in the United States and throughout the world as a leading figure in the fight against poverty and the effort to promote economic and social change;

            (2) Muhammad Yunus is the recognized developer of the concept of microcredit, and Grameen Bank, which he founded, has created a model of lending that has been emulated across the globe;

            (3) Muhammad Yunus launched this global movement to create economic and social development from below, beginning in 1976, with a loan of $27 from his own pocket to 42 crafts persons in a small village in Bangladesh;

            (4) Muhammad Yunus has demonstrated the life-changing potential of extending very small loans (at competitive interest rates) to the very poor and the economic feasibility of microcredit and other microfinance and microenterprise practices and services;

            (5) Dr. Yunus's work has had a particularly strong impact on improving the economic prospects of women, and on their families, as over 95 percent of microcredit borrowers are women;

            (6) Dr. Yunus has pioneered a movement with the potential to assist a significant number of the more than 1,400,000,000 people, mostly women and children, who live on less than $1.25 a day, and the 2,600,000,000 people who live on less than $2 a day, and which has already reached 155,000,000, by one estimate;

            (7) there are now an estimated 24,000,000 microenterprises in the United States accounting for approximately 18 percent of private (nonfarm) employment and 87 percent of all business in the United States, and the Small Business Administration has made over $318,000,000 in microloans to entrepreneurs since 1992;

            (8) Dr. Yunus, along with the Grameen Bank, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his efforts to promote economic and social opportunity and out of recognition that lasting peace cannot be achieved unless large population groups find the means, such as microcredit, to break out of poverty; and

            (9) the microcredit ideas developed and put into practice by Muhammad Yunus, along with other bold initiatives, can make a historical breakthrough in the fight against poverty.

.

Excerpt of Sam Daley-Harris’ Opening Ceremony Remarks from the Latin America-Caribbean Summit

June 17, 2009

Last week Sam Daley-Harris opened the Latin America-Caribbean Regional Microcredit Summit in Cartagena, Colombia. He shared the stage with, among others, Professor Muhammad Yunus and Colombia President Alvaro Uribe. Below is an excerpt of his remarks:

"...And I ask you to challenge yourselves to take your accomplishments to the next level-to build microfinance institutions that are at the cutting edge-that use microfinance to end poverty in your country, your region, and around the world.

I know that that sounds like an impossible task, but that is what the leaders from Latin America and the Caribbean have asked for. I was so inspired by your responses to the survey we sent last year asking for your top choices for plenary and workshop titles for this Summit. Out of 50 titles circulated, the number one selection by leaders of microfinance in Latin America and the Caribbean who responded to the survey said that the session they wanted most was: "Breaking the Rules of Microfinance to Better End Poverty: Innovations from Around the World."

That wish will be granted. After lunch today we will have that session and you will hear from two of the global rule-breakers. Of course a third rule-breaker, Muhammad Yunus, probably the greatest rule-breaker in the world, is on this stage with me.

One rule in microfinance is that we can only reach the "economically active" poor, those with a stall in the market, with a business that is up and running. After lunch you will hear from Anne Hastings of FONKOZE in Haiti and Ingrid Munro of Jamii Bora in Kenya, people who have broken that rule and are successfully making loans to the ultra poor, to people who are living with HIV and AID, to beggars, thieves and prostitutes.

Several years ago Anne Hastings held a small Summit in Haiti with a big vision. She brought several leaders from Africa, Asia and Latin America to help Fonkoze answer this question: What is the best methodology we can use to end poverty in Haiti? Don't you love that question?

Recently Ingrid Munro told me that after the post election violence in Kenya 18 months ago, Jamii Bora received funds to rebuild some of the markets that had been destroyed in the rioting. Jamii Bora decided they had to find the hooligans who burned down the markets and engage them in rebuilding the markets. One of the leaders of the rioting was known as "The General." Jamii Bora engaged The General and his gang in rebuilding the markets and then engaged them in microfinance. He came to Ingrid recently and told her that he hadn't been able to go home to his village for 10 years because his mother was so ashamed of what he did. But he just went home and he said his mother cried for three days because she was so proud of how he had turned his life around.

There is the vision of using microfinance to better end poverty and then there is vision of using microfinance for redemption. The dictionary defines redemption as restoring one's honor or worth, setting one free. Isn't that our highest goal for microfinance, assisting people in restoring their honor and worth and setting them free from the bondage of poverty?..."

  best of 2008

Members of Congress Call on World Bank to Support Microfinance for the Very Poor

Thirty Senators urge Bank President Zoellick to devote more resources to reaching the very poor

Thirty senators have signed on to a letter to World Bank President Robert Zoellick urging him to ensure that the Bank invests more in microfinance and, most important, ensures that at least half of all microfinance resources benefit the very poor. The letter was initiated by Senators Robert Bennett (R-UT), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Michael Enzi (R-WY), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH). The 30 signers include the leading Democratic presidential candidates Senators Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Barack Obama (D-IL)and the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Richard Lugar (R-IN).

“Microfinance has the power to transform the lives of the poorest people in our world by providing them access to small loans to start individual businesses, a safe place to save, and peer support,” the letter states. “Microfinance gives borrowers, especially women, the capacity to improve the quality of their lives and the futures of their children.”

Although the Bank has previously acknowledged the effectiveness of microfinance, it devotes very little of its annual budget to microfinance institutions (MFIs). It is also very difficult to track funds allocated to microfinance. Some estimates have suggested that the Bank spends as little as one percent on microfinance.

The thirty senators — or nearly one-third of the Senate — who signed the letter included 11 Republicans, 20 Democrats and one Independent, demonstrating the enormous bipartisan support for this issue. The letter was supported by RESULTS Educational Fund, a national grassroots education and advocacy organization that works to expand support for microfinance and other poverty reduction priorities around the world. A similar letter also was circulated in the House, and garnered 43 signers. Last October, 29 members of Congress met with World Bank President Zoellick to discuss this issue. Zoellick promised to hold further discussions, but no follow-up meeting has yet been scheduled. Representatives Rush Holt (D-NJ) and John Carter (R-TX) are leading the House effort.

The Senate and House letters urge the World Bank to take four specific steps to ensure that more microfinance funding reaches the very poor: 1) double its investment in microfinance to at least two percent of its program spending; 2) ensure that at least 50 percent of those funds reach clients who are in the bottom half of those living below their nation’s poverty line); 3) implement cost-effective poverty measurement tools to ensure compliance; and 4) report annually on the results.

"The range of Senate signers is quite impressive," said RESULTS founder and Microcredit Summit DirectorSam Daley-Harris. "Signers include the two conservative senators from Utah, Mr. Bennett and Mr. Hatch; the two liberal senators from California, Ms. Feinstein and Ms. Boxer; the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Mr. Lugar; and the two Democratic Party presidential candidates Ms. Clinton and Mr. Obama. The bipartisan support for this is issue is something the World Bank President cannot ignore."

The final signers of the letter in the Senate include: Bennett (R-UT), Durbin (D-IL), Enzi (R-WY), Brown (D-OH), Murkowski (R-AK), Lieberman (I-CT), Cardin (D-MD), Bayh (D-IN), Murray (D-WA), Boxer (D-CA), Stabenow (D-MI), Hatch (R-UT), Lugar (R-IN), Chambliss (R-GA), Levin (D-MI), Coleman (R-MN), Nelson (D-FL), Casey (D-PA), Mikulski (D-MD), Klobuchar (D-MN), Inhofe (R-OK), Isakson (R-GA), Obama (D-IL), Clinton (D-NY), Schumer (D-NY), Feinstein (D-CA), Burr (R-NC), McCaskill (D-MO), Martinez (R-FL), Cantwell (D-WA).

In the House, the final signers are: Holt (D-NJ), Carter (R-TX), Moran (D-VA), Hastings (D-FL), James McGovern (D-MA), Matheson (D-UT), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Baldwin (D-WI), Honda (D-CA), Bordallo (D-GU), Gonzalez (D-TX), Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Rohrabacher (R-CA), Inslee (D-WA), McDermott (D-WA), Rothman (D-NJ), Harman (D-CA), Waxman (D-CA), Capps (D-CA), Payne (D-NJ), Walberg (R-MI), Conyers (D-MI), Sullivan (R-OK), Kildee (D-MI), Wilson (R-NM), McCotter (R-MI), Berkley (D-NV), Dicks (D-WA), Doggett (D-TX), Inglis (R-SC), Murphy (D-PA), Davis (D-CA), Farr (D-CA), Shuler (D-NC), Souder (R-IN), Filner (D-CA), Larsen (D-WA), Conaway (R-TX), Udall (D-CO), Lewis (D-GA), Waters (D-CA), Smith (D-WA), Saxton (R-NJ), Sires (D-NJ), Ellison (D-MN), Reichert (D-WA).

###

RESULTS is committed to educating the public, the media, and leaders about issues related to poverty and hunger in the United States and abroad. We hold public forums, train citizens in democracy, hold media conference calls to share the latest information, and produce quality oversight research to determine the effectiveness of programs for the poor.

++ special mentions

Senator Michael Enzi (R-WY)

Senator Michael Enzi of Wyoming has proven himself an ally of several RESULTS campaigns, especially expanding microfinance services to the very poor. In October 2007, Senator Enzi was one of the few senators who attended a congressional World Bank meeting with World Bank President Robert Zoellick. In December 2007, along with three other senators, Enzi co-authored a letter to President Zoellick pressing him to direct more funding to microfinance for the world’s poorest. In a further demonstration of his advocacy of microfinance, Senator Enzi is a cosponsor of a bill to award a Congressional Gold Medal to Muhammad Yunus.

Senator Enzi is the ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Senator Enzi led the Senate in its efforts to help ensure that everyone, no matter their age, can receive a quality education. He has worked to help provide Americans access to affordable, quality health care while protecting workers and providing them training to get the best jobs. The senator has helped oversee the biggest revisison to pension laws in 30 years to strengthen funding rules to secure the retirements of millions of Americans. Enzi’s committee also led the way to making the first revision to mine safety laws in 28 years by promoting the use of new technologies to improve mine safety and save lives.

Senator Enzi helped author the reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act, which creates a streamlined job training and employment system vital to employers and workers. He formed the Rural Education Caucus and strives to ensure the unique challenges small population schools face are not overlooked in federal education legislation. He was one of only two congressional representatives to the U.N. General Assembly in the 108th Congress. He has authored innovative legislation that would reinvent our medical justice system.

Senator Enzi is the Senate’s only accountant by profession and he serves with distinction on the Senate Banking Committee. It does not bear his name, but there is a large part of Enzi in the Sarbanes-Oxley bill, bipartisan legislation that continues to have a greater impact on corporate behavior and financial reporting than any legislation of the recent past. There are provisions in the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act authored by the senator regarding financial literacy and identity theft that will have a profound positive effect on many Americans.

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