2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner’s heart for Vietnam

As news agencies reported that the Norwegian Nobel Committee had decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize 2006 to Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank, though it was midnight, many people who are working for hunger eradication and poverty alleviation organisations in Vietnam informed each other about this good news. That’s because Muhammad Yunus has had a strong attachment to Vietnam for more than a decade.

It was a very hard period of time for Dr Muhammad Yunus: trying to establish the Grameen Bank with o­nly $27.


“If all leaves in all forests o­n all continents could be turned into paper, if sea water in all oceans could become ink, these volumes of paper and ink couldn't record the difficulties that Grameen Bank experienced.”


That’s what he told us - the first delegation from Vietnam to come to Bangladesh to learn how to loan to the poor.


We visited many branches of Grameen Bank in various regions in Bangladesh as well as had meetings with many families. At that time, Grameen gave us surprise after surprise. Clients of this bank are poor and very poor women. We didn’t believe our eyes when we visited their houses, which were huts enclosed by the core of o­ne kind of tree that is similar to jute and roofed by the leaves of a tree like sugarcane in Vietnam. Those houses were totally empty, without beds, clothes, and even bowls and plates.


One special thing that we learnt from Prof. Mahammad, the leader of the Grameen Bank, the father of the “micro-credit”, is the theory o­n hunger and poverty and the solution to this problem. Lasting peace can not be achieved unless large population groups find ways to break out of poverty. Micro-credit is o­ne such means. Development from below also serves to advance democracy and human rights.


Returning to Vietnam with knowledge and skills in micro-credit management under the Grameen method and the images of the bank’s talented and honest leader, we contributed to the establishment of the Fund of Affection for poor women.


The fund was founded in 1992 by the Vietnam Women’s Union Central Committee under the assistance of the Japan Community Development Fund, the Asia Pacific Development Centre (APDC – 1993). The Secretary General of APDC at that time, Dr. Getubic, encouraged us to apply the model of Grameen Bank in Vietnam.


The Grameen Trust also loaned this project $21,000 at a soft interest rate, including a commitment: “if this model is successful in Vietnam, the Grameen Trust will give the loan and interest money to the project in Vietnam”.


Dr Muhammad not o­nly successfully demonstrated his theories through the Grameen programme in his country, but also helped many other countries in the world to use this method. He always follows the development of the credit programme for the poor in Vietnam and is always ready to help Vietnam train staff, share experiences and advertise the image of Vietnam.


At the invitation of the Vietnam Women’s Union, he paid his first visit to Vietnam in 1995. Immediately after arriving at the Noi Bai International Airport, he proposed a visit to a branch of the Fund of Affection in suburban Soc Son District of Hanoi.


During this visit, he met with Vietnamese leaders like former Prime Minister Phan Van Khai and President of the National Committee for the Advancement of Women Truong My Hoa, officials from the State Bank of Vietnam and the Ministry of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs.


At those meetings, he highly praised Vietnam’s resistance wars for independence and unity and expressed the belief that Vietnam could successfully deal with hunger and poverty. He was also ready to share his experiences in hunger eradication and poverty reduction with Vietnam.


Talking about the role of micro-finance in the market and its prospects when the operation of commercial banks developed, he said: “if we consider the official financial system and commercial banks as big rivers bringing capital to localities, micro-credit is like canals bringing capital to each family”. So naturally, at any time, any place, micro-credit is still necessary.


After this visit, Vietnamese leaders like Phan Van Khai, Truong My Hoa and Vo Thi Thang paid a visit to Bangladesh and the Grameen Bank. Officials of the SBV also studied the model and experiences of the Grameen Bank.


Two big organisations in Vietnam that apply the Grameen method, the CEP Fund in HCM City and the Fund for Affection of the Vietnam Women’s Union Central Committee, have become members of the global Grameen system. Former Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet visited the branch of the Fund for Affection in Soc Son District and encouraged the development of this model in Vietnam. After that, US First Lady Hillary Clinton also paid a visit to this branch.


Prof, Dr. Muhammad Yunus came to HCM City in May 2005 and June 2005 after his first visit to Vietnam in 1995.


At a seminar in HCM City in June 2005, he gave a speech that contained important suggestions about the roles of the government and the law in micro-credit activities.


His Vietnamese students have applied and developed the Grameen method in Vietnam effectively. The three organisations that officially use the Grameen Bank model in Vietnam, the Fund of Affection, CEP Fund, and the M7 Micro-credit network, cover 16 provinces and 130,000 poor and very poor families. Those organisations can become micro-credit institutions under the Decree 28/2005/ND-CP of the government.


The impacts of the Grameen method o­n the operations of the Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Agribank) and the Policy Bank in Vietnam are also clear as those banks have used the method of lending in groups.


Hundreds of thousands of poor people in Vietnam who benefit from the Grameen method know him, the founder and developer of the method of lending to the poor effectively. Thanks to his method their lives have changed.


Le Lan - VietNamNet