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Muhammad Yunus, along with the Grameen Bank, was awarded the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to further social and economic development. “Muhammad Yunus has shown himself to be a leader who has managed to translate visions into practical action for the benefit of millions of people, not only in Bangladesh, but also in many other countries.

Loans to poor people without any financial security had appeared to be an impossible idea,” states the Norwegian Nobel Committee prize announcement. “From modest beginnings three decades ago, Yunus has, first and foremost through Grameen Bank, developed microcredit into an ever more important instrument in the struggle against poverty.”

Born in 1940 in the village of Bathua, Bangladesh, Yunus moved to the US to earn his Ph.D in economics from Vanderbilt University. He continued living in Tennessee as a professor of economics at Middle Tennessee State University until 1972. Yunus returned to Bangladesh and became head of the economics department at Chittagong University.

Yunus believes that people should be given the chance to borrow and repay loans regardless of their economic status. He began a pilot project in 1976 which soon after became a full-fledged bank called Grameen Bank.