Access to quality education has enabled me to reach far beyond the Bangladeshi village I grew up in.
I was born in 1940 in Hathazari, Chittagong, which is now part of Bangladesh. Education was always important to my parents and with what little we had they were able to provide an education for their children. After completing Bachelor and Master Degrees at Dhaka University, I went on to complete a PhD at Vanderbilt University and began teaching at Middle Tennessee State University.
Upon returning to Bangladesh in early 1980s I began teaching economics at Chittagong University. It was there that I began to see the devastating impact of an unjust system with resources going to those with financial means and an education. With that vision
I founded Grameen Bank to provide loans to those considered traditionally unbankable. Grameen Bank works with the poorest and often illiterate providing uncollateralized micro-loans for tiny business enterprises by which they can lift themselves and their families out of poverty.
As part of this process we realized that providing an education to the children of the borrowers they would not suffer the same discrimination that their parents had. Grameen has been providing free education to borrower's children in the villages and these educated sons and daughters are now tasked with creating new enterprises jobs and opportunities for themselves and others.
The developing world is full of entrepreneurs and visionaries, who with access to education, equity and credit would play a key role in developing the economic situations in their countries. Today 2.5 billion adults, of whom 775 million are illiterate, could be a resource to the world's problems. There are 57 million children who don't have access to primary education. If all children in low-income countries had basic reading skills, 171 million people could be lifted out of poverty. We can fulfill the promise of universal education for all if we continue to call on world leaders to ensure that every child has the opportunity to attend school.
In 2012, I joined Kofi Annan, Michel Camdessus, and others on the Africa Progress Panel to develop strategies for equitable and sustainable development through the Global Partnership for Education (GPE). The GPE is dedicated to this development objective as the world's only multilateral partnership committed to access to education for every child. The United States pledged to increase education access for 15 million learners in conflict-affected and fragile states by 2015 by supporting learning opportunities for youth and developing partner countries institutional capacity to provide education services. As Global Citizens, we must join together to call on the United States Federal Government to fulfill its promise to the world's poor.
On September 28th, it is my pleasure to serve on the Host Committee of the 2013 Global Citizen Festival. As the United Nations General Assembly meets in New York, 60,000 Global Citizens will gather on the lawn of Central Park for the annual Festival with global leaders and musical performers. The festival will issue a clarion call to world leaders to continue funding the programs necessary to pull people out of extreme poverty including specifically the United Nations Millennium Development Goals to ensure that every child has access to universal primary education.
Visit tocatchadollar.com to learn more about Professor Yunus and how his unique and revolutionary model of microfinance is proving successful in the United States.