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Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus received Sahabdeen awards in 1994

The Sahabdeen Trust Foundation awarded the present Nobel prize winner Professor Muhammad Yunus in 1994. Here Sunday Observer staffer Afreeha Jawad interviews the Sahabdeen Trust Foundation’s Chairman Dr. A. M. M. Sahabdeen.

S. Sharvananda, one time Chief Justice presents the A. M. M. Sahabdeen Award to Professor Muhammad Yunus in 1994. Looking on is Chairman Sahabdeen Trust Foundation Dr. A. M. M. Sahabdeen.

To those that believe in doing things in a ‘big way’ so to say, Bangladesh’s Nobel Peace Prize winning Economist Professor Muhammad Yunus’ Grameen Bank concept is emulation worthy. It’s a small step taken resulting in gigantic strides where slowly yet surely the downcast, economically disadvantaged segment in his country are into economic empowerment. Grameen basically means rural or grassroots and in revolutionising the orthodox concept of banking where only affluence was passport to loans disbursement, Professor Yunus dismantled the populist notion that the poor were unreliable in loan repayment.

Long before the Nobel Peace Prize could come his way, Professor Yunus was awarded by the A. M. M. Sahabdeen Trust Foundation way back in 1994. On that occasion, addressing the gathering Professor Yunus said, “The honour you give me is the honour which goes to twelve thousand young boys and girls who worked very hard to make a dream (The Grameen Programme) come true.

This honour goes to two million people, two million families who struggled to establish the human dignity they deserve as human beings. This honour goes to the people of Bangladesh that you have recognised for the effort they are making to overcome their difficulties. I am inspired by coming here. I am touched. I feel stronger in pursuing the objectives we have set for ourselves.”

Commenting on his poverty alleviation programme in Bangladesh he said. “Looking back at economics, I feel it is unreliable as it relies too much on abstractions. It gives a bird’s eye view of ground realities. You fly from the top. You fly very high. My first reaction was then to depart from a bird’s eye view.

So I tried to develop another view - the worm’s eye view - because through it you see things very closely. But with a bird’s eye view you create wrong notions of progress and make no progress.” Talking to the Sunday Observer Chairman, A. M. M. Sahabdeen Trust Foundation Dr. A. M. M. Sahabdeen said, “Our award is international in scope and is regulated by a Parliamentary Act No. 3 of 1991 which empowers us to recognise excellence in international scholars and community leaders who have rendered outstanding service to human development.

Professor Yunus came within this category of world leaders who has done something original for poverty alleviation not only in Bangladesh but also in the world. We of the Sahabdeen Trust Foundation therefore selected him”.

Question: What do you think of the Grameen Bank concept?

Answer: It is the unique intimation which as far as I know has no parallel in any country. It is in fact a product of genius and this is why we of the Sahabdeen Trust Foundation decided to award Dr. Yunus. The Grameen Bank concept radically deviates from traditional banking in giving easy credit to the poorest of the poor who have no co-laterals to offer. Secondly, it is based on an ideal of socio/economic emancipation of the community’s weakest section and releases them from the clutches of money lenders. Thirdly, the Grameen Bank concept has proved beyond doubt that the poor are reliable dependable and can be trusted upon for loan repayment.

Question: Dr. Why is it that the world suffers so much out of social frustration?

Answer: Our present monetary system whatever be its justification is undoubtedly geared to making the rich richer while the poor become poorer. In short, conventional banking does not deviate from its traditional attitudes towards taking risks as far as the poor are concerned giving rise to social inequity. This is where Professor Yunus’ Grameen Bank system fills a vacuum in bringing about social justice of caring for the sidelined millions.

Question: What has the A. M. M. Sahabdeen Trust Foundation done towards social equity and justice?

Answer: We operate mainly in the area of education. The Sahabdeen Trust Foundation has given thousands of scholarships to the poor, helped educational institutions deserving assistance in various ways and in general contributed to the development of children who need assistance. In fact a 150 tsunami affected children are currently accommodated at ‘Pahamunai House’ in Kurunegala regardless of ethnicity. Pahamunai House is an affiliate of the Sahabdeen Trust Foundation. Moreover the foundation also periodically gives international awards to scholars and community leaders who have made significant contribution to human development specially in the fields of international peace, scientific research and social studies.

Question: What is your answer to marginalisation of any kind?

Answer: You see, marginalisation is due to ignorance and intolerance. Our innate egoism gets bloated up to embrace our own race, caste, creed or social class. This leads to segregation and a “We are holier than thou” attitude comes in forgetting each culture has its own uniqueness based on principles of one single human essence-humanity. A great Sufi or mystic once said, “the colour of water depends on the colour of the glass it contains. This does not make any difference to the water. But geo/historical and sociological perspectives can give different perceptions of the water. Marginalisation be it social, economic, religious, political whatever sets in when one group considers its perception as superior to that of the other group.

Question: What is your answer to marginalisation?

Answer: It is only through knowledge and understanding that one could prevent marginalisation. In depth studies, social contacts and empathy that we are all humans inheriting the same human essence is needed. Professor Yunus’ Grameen Bank concept contributes significantly to the concept of human brotherhood.


Gamin Gamata - Presidential Community & Welfare Service
Sri Lanka

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