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In the Pursuit of Liberty and Happiness: How the Life of Mohammad Yunus Continue to Impact the World Essay

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Updated: Feb 7th, 2019

By any standards, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States can be termed as two of the most fundamental and enduring documents in the Nation’s history due to the very fact that the ideals enshrined in the documents continue to influence generations of Americans in major ways, especially in terms of rule of law, self governance and the protection of individual rights (U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services, 2008).

The Declaration of Independence, in particular, set forth the basic tenets that could be used to ensure a just and fair government. Although over two millennia have now passed since the documents were instituted, many Americans continue to hold these principles close to their hearts, with particular emphasis been placed on the three unalienable rights enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, and which are bestowed on us by our Creator (ARD, 2010).

The document highlighted three most basic rights, namely, “the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” (ARD, 2010, para. 1). This paper purposes to assess how these unalienable rights have shaped the life of Muhammad Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank, winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Price, and also the winner of the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom Award.

Born in 1940 in what was then known as Eastern Bengal, Yunus got himself a good education to become an economist at Chittagong University. During one of his field visits in 1974, in the company of his students, he “…interviewed a woman who made bamboo stools, and learnt that she had to borrow the equivalent of 15p to buy raw bamboo for each stool made” (Grameen Bank, 2010a, para. 2).

The woman, after repaying her loan to the shylocks at rates exceeding 10%, was left with minimal profits that could neither meet her most basic rights neither sustain her business. An idea struck Yunus that if the woman was allowed the capacity to borrow loans at more advantageous rates than what was being offered by the brokers, and without collateral, she could be able to accumulate an economic cushion that will not only raise her living standards above subsistence level, but also sustain and expand her business.

The idea led to the establishment in 1983 of what is today known as the Grameen Bank or simply the ‘village bank.” According to industry figures, the bank operates 2,564 branches in Bangladesh, and employs in excess of 19,000 employees serving an estimated 8.29 million borrowers spread across 81, 367 villages (Grameen Bank, 2010b).

Although the bank does not require collateral, its loan recovery rate stands at 97%, necessitating other countries to develop projects that revolve around the banks model to alleviate poverty among populations.

Although the idea to start the micro-finance institution may seem more economically oriented, there exist heavy political undertones in the founder’s desire to see a just society where every body is endowed with the capacity to lead a happy life. Indeed, Yunus have embraced a model that offers interventions to communities by creating economic and social progression from below.

According to the founder, lasting peace in the world will forever remain elusive unless large population groups are given the means to break out of the cocoons of poverty (Grameen Bank, 2010b). The right to liberty is synonymous to freedom, which in political perspective implies that all individuals should be free from state coercion (ARD, 2010).

Yunus, however, is of the opinion that poor people can never enjoy freedom even in the absence of state coercion due to the fact that poverty not only shackles the individual’s free will, but it also leads to stagnation of the dreams that are held so dear by people relating to leading a happy life such as getting a good education, which would guarantee a good job, thus financial stability (Yunus, 2007).

This philosophy is derived from the fact that “…economic growth and political democracy can not achieve their full potential unless the female half of humanity participates on an equal footing with the male” (Grameen Bank, 2010b, para. 3).

This philosophy necessitated Yunus to develop the micro-credit concept through his Grameen Bank to assist millions of poor people out of poverty, therefore guaranteeing their financial and social freedom. It is a well known fact that people who are financially and materially endowed are more likely to participate in the running of government affairs, including demanding for their rights from the state (Yunus, 2007).

It is also the philosophy of Yunus that development from below through such means as availing micro-credit to the poor to uplift their living standards and achieve self-sustenance inarguably advances democracy and respect for human rights, including the right to life. According to ARC (2010), life is largely a process of self-sustenance, and the right to life implies the right for individuals to engage in self-sustaining activities.

Yunus has worked extremely hard in his life time to ensure that millions of people around the world get the right to involve themselves in self-sustaining activities through offering micro-credit that is not tied to any collateral as is the case in other financial institutions. Indeed, it is Yunus’ belief that every single person in this world has both the capability and the right to lead a happy life.

The contributions that Yunus has made to millions of people in his lifetime will certainly continue to positively impact people for generations to come.

It is imperative to note that 97% of the 8.29 million customers of Grameen Bank comprise of women who could not afford to give their children a descent education before the revolutionary thoughts of Yunus came into the fore. Today, however, these women are not only leading better lives, but their children and other generations to come will greatly benefit from the education that they have attained through this intervention (Yunus, 2007).

A prosperous nation is laid on the frameworks of enlightenment and respect for life. Yunus continues to work hard to ensure that these virtues are entrenched not only in Bangladesh, but also across the world. Future generations will benefit immensely due to the stability and foresight that has been created by people like Professor Yunus. The economist’s long-term mission of eradicating poverty in the world (Grameen Bank, 2010b), will go a long way in ensuring future generations live a life that is just, free and fair.

Reference List

Ayn Rand Center. (2010). Principles of a free society: Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Web.

Grameen Bank (2010a). Biography of Dr. Mohammad Yunus. Web.

. (2010b). Prof. Muhammad Yunus & Grameen Bank Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2006. Web.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. (2008). The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. Web.

Yunus, M. (2007). Banker to the People: Micro-Lending and the Battle against World Poverty. New York, NY: PublicAffairs Books.

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