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Meeting Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Mohammad Yunus

“Human beings are selfish, but we are also selfless.”

These were the words of the Nobel Peace Prize winner Professor Mohammad Yunus, when he gave a speech at the National University of Singapore earlier this year. 

Professor Yunus, who hails from Bangladesh, said that in today’s world, the pursuit of material benefits has become an addiction as people are becoming more like money-making robots. However, we must be reminded that we are bigger than robots for God gave us a conscience.

He was speaking about creating a supportive environment for social business. It was he who first penned the term ‘social business’ and it was his first social business, Grameen bank, that earned him the Nobel Peace Prize.

Social business is almost unheard of in Singapore but looking at the crowd in the auditorium on 23rd February (there weren’t even enough seats for everyone), it looks like the idea is taking flight. Many asked Professor Yunus how they should go about setting up a social business in Singapore.

Professor Yunus is known around impoverished Bangladesh as being the “banker to the poor”.  It wasn’t easy establishing the bank. Many government officials laughed when he pitched the idea because they asked, “What is a business without profit?”

However, Professor Yunus didn’t let adversity deter him. He believed that there was something he could do to help the two million people suffering from poverty in Bangladesh. 

The government were of the view that the Bangladeshi people “lacked skill”, but Professor Yunus believed that the poor families in Bangladesh had skill and yet their lives were not improved.

He said “Laws are like moulds, once you create a law, society will start taking shape.”

He believed that it was the government’s failure of the system that had caused the poverty.

Today, Professor Yunus has many social businesses under his belt. He helped brought solar power to the villagers in Bangladesh as electricity shortages are frequent and expensive. At least 15 million homes in Bangladesh are now making use of solar energy.

He also got renowned French company, Danone, to produce yogurt that is affordable to the poor as at least 46% of the children in Bangladesh suffer from malnutrition.

From where I sat, I felt inspired by Professor Yunus’s humility and passion. I, for one, pray that more social businesses would be set up, to help eradicate poverty.

Written by Nabila Goh
Diploma in Creative Writing for TV and New Media, Year 2