April 17, 2013 – Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank, gave a lecture on “Social Business and Microcredit for Women’s Empowerment and Poverty Alleviation" today in historic Gaston Hall.
The event was sponsored by Georgetown's Office of the President, The Yunus Centre, the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security, and the School of Foreign Service's Masters in Global Human Development Program.
Yunus and the bank he created in Bangladesh won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for developing "micro-credit into an ever more important instrument in the struggle against poverty."
Yunus explained to students how Grameen Bank started out in its early days and the struggles it had to lend money to women, especially in rural villages in Bangladesh.
When his students who helped him start the bank, many of whom attended the lecture, expressed doubt that poor and impoverished women would take loans, Yunus told them not to listen to the potential borrowers' negative thoughts.
"Our job is to not to listen to what they say," Yunus told the audience of students, faculty and staff. "Our job is to peel off the fears, layer by layer so that some day one of these women will feel encouraged and say, 'maybe I should try.' If she tries and if it works out then others will say 'oh my gosh, she did it [so] maybe I should try too.”
Six years after its inception, half of Grameen Bank's borrowers were women; today, 97 percent of the bank's borrowers are women.
Earlier during the day, Yunus received the Congressional Gold Medal during a ceremony in the U.S. Capitol. The award, which Yunus earned in 2010 for his work combating poverty, is the highest civilian honor given by the U.S. Congress.
John J. DeGioia, president of Georgetown University, Melanne Verveer, executive director of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security (GIWPS) and formerly Obama’s first ever ambassador-at-large and director of the State Department’s office for Global Women’s Issues, and Ann Van Dusen, director of Georgetown's Global Human Development Program, offered remarks at the event.
Yunus concluded his remarks by telling students that big ideas, not money, are the true catalysts that can positively impact and change the world.
All it needs to change the world is [ideas], not money," he said. "...the power of the idea is the supreme idea and then you can change everything. ... You have the power and the question that I leave with you: what are you going to do with that power."