Professor Muhammad Yunus, Annette Lu on empowering women
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-04-13 06:41 PM
Dr. Muhammad Yunus of Grameen Bank and former Vice President Annette Lu discussed their experiences in working for equal rights and equal opportunities for women in business and society during a dialogue Sunday evening in the Council Chamber of the Taipei City Council.

Professor Yunus and Ms Lu are both known for their long years of service and devotion to the cause of women’s rights in their respective countries.

Professor Yunus is a native of Bangladesh who was born in 1940 and in 1965 received a Fulbright Scholarship to study economics at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee. He was awarded a Ph.D in economics there in 1969.

He returned home in 1972 to Bangladesh where he joined the Department of Economics of the University of Chittagong as chairman. In 1976 he began experimenting with small-scale, collateral-free loans to the poor. Titled the Grameen Bank Project, the program became a full-fledged bank in 1983 as it continued providing loans to the poor – mostly women – in rural Bangladesh. Today the Grameen Bank has more than 8.4 million borrowers, 97% of whom are women, and disburses more than one and a half billion US dollars in loans each year.

Professor Yunus has been widely hailed for his courage in applying the concept of microcredit in rural areas in accordance with his belief that even ‘the poorest of the poor’ can work to bring about their own economic development. At the same time, the approach is grounded in a practical system of "solidarity groups" that ensures that loans will be repaid in a timely manner. The small, informal groups apply jointly for loans, and members act as co-guarantors of repayment and support one another's efforts in economic self-advancement.

As Professor Yunun puts it, his purpose in offering loans to poor people overlooked or ignored by commercial banks is to help eradicate poverty. He expresses the hope that “someday soon we will visit the museum to see poverty, because we will never see poverty in society.”

Professor Yunus and Grameen Bank were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for their contributions to the well-being and independence of women throughout much of Bangladesh’ countryside.

Annette Lu is the chairman of Business and Professional Women (BPW), an international organization which seeks to promote the status of women in society and in particular in business dealings around the world. She talks about how far women have come from the days of Confucianism when they were subjected to the ‘three obediences’ and ‘three bondages’ as well as 50 years of occupation by the male-dominated Japanese. Today, she notes, the success of women in society and business is epitomized by executives like Cher Wang, the founder and chairman of HTC, a global leader in the smartphone industry.

Ms Lu was the first woman to be elected Vice President of the Republic of China, and since leaving office in 2008 has worked tirelessly both inside and outside of government on behalf of women in business as well as in society.

The dialogue between Professor Yunus and Ms Lu was sponsored by the Taiwan branch of BPW.

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