Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Muhammad Yunus will be appearing at the United Nations in New York on September 22nd during the Clinton Global Initiative to present the new documentary Bonsai People: The Vision of Muhammad Yunus by award-winning filmmaker Holly Mosher. The screening is being held the day after the International Day of Peace to highlight how issues of economic disparity remain one of the biggest threats to peace.
Yunus won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for his work with the Grameen Bank, which started out by offering small loans to Bangladesh's poor women to help encourage self-enterprise and foster community development. As the practice of micro-lending has spread worldwide, Yunus and the Grameen Bank have deflected criticism as other predatory lenders have moved in to the small loan business. In Bangladesh, Yunus and Grameen's work in upending societal norms have not gone unchallenged, as Grameen Board members face harassment, and Yunus is being threatened for removal from the bank he founded for working beyond the government retirement age.
It is a timely opportunity, then, for Holly Mosher's new film to help the international community observe the breadth of Muhammad Yunus's work and recognize that Microcredit is just the tip of the iceberg.
Bonsai People follows women who are borrowers from Grameen Bank and are applying their loans to self-betterment while developing income. The film shows how the Grameen Bank creates a local council of borrowers in villages, where women meet to share their progress. In communal support and involvement with the borrowers, the Grameen Bank helps foster enterprise on the most fundamental level in villages across Bangladesh, a country struggling with famine and natural disasters.
But beyond the Grameen Bank, there are scores of Grameen business ventures built as a response to the needs of desperate countrymen. From collaborating with Danone to produce affordable yogurt for malnourished children in Bangladesh to building eye care hospitals that will save hundreds of thousands of people from blindness, Yunus has pioneered social businesses. Bonsai People looks at some of these social businesses in action, while chronicling the main characters' work toward a better life with their Grameen loans, everything from farming to opening a store to fixing a roof.
In these tumultuous financial times, a closer look by the international community at Yunus's groundbreaking social business innovations is deserved. In the United States, where job creation seems to be only allowed by the wealthy, many across the political spectrum will be intrigued to see how people can prosper under extreme conditions with small support and a lot of encouragement.
Bonsai People Trailer: