By Rebecca Fleming
Micro finance being a social business is capable of eliminating poverty by getting at least one beggar off the street and into a business venture, the pioneer in this field yesterday said.
Nobel Peace Prize Winner Prof. Muhammad Yunus who delivered the key note address at a discussion forum on “Sustainable Micro Finance through social entrepreneurship” yesterday on “Grameen Story” said that “Micro Financing is not a foot note but the mainstream.” Prof. Yunus is in the country on a three day visit where he highlighted key aspects of micro finance that has been taken up in a big way in Sri Lanka with most in the provinces benefiting by this approach to gain access to business ventures.
The forum was organised to mark the first anniversary of the Lanka Micro Finance Network. It was attended by leading figures in the micro finance network and the members of network.
President of Lanka Micro Finance Practioners’ Association Shakila Wijewardena in his welcome address noted that micro finance is an untiring effort in changing rural economy and empowering the rural community. In fact his association functions on eight objectives to promote Solidarity and understanding. “Our association is very young as it started only a year ago yet we have a three year strategic plan” added the President of Lanka Micro Finance Practioners’ Association.
Relating the “Grameen Story” he said that “Local money should stay with local people and work.” Despite their fruitful efforts they tend to hear the cliché, “Microfinance is a wonderful idea but the entrepreneur is poor” At present they are solely focusing on the beggars and the half of the money given to the beggars have come back to them. According to Prof. Yunus if he can help get one beggar off the street and move them into a business venture this would contribute to the success of the programme.
During the discussion forum Prof. Yunus speaking on Sustainable micro finance through social entrepreneurship elaborated on the fact that micro finance is for the purpose of generating income for the poor with low interest. He further went onto say that, “microfinance a social business because it is for social growth and empowerment of women and children.” In case if one considers it as profit maximising then they have to use another term without calling it micro finance added Prof. Yunus.
Founder and President Sarvodaya Movement Dr. A.T Ariyaratne speaking on the social impact of micro finance on the poor world is ruined by the governing people It is difficult to find people believe in micro finance because people think of big things and not meeting the things small way. He highlighted that both poverty and powerlessness should be eradicated. “So far no government has addressed micro finance yet we not only need micro finance but also micro governance too.”
Deputy Governor Central Bank Dr. W.A Wijewardena countering the allegations made by Dr. Ariyaratne addressing the forum said it was the Central Bank who piloted the micro finance project in the 80s’and the 100,000 families who were in that programme had cross the poverty line within 6-7 years. He emphasised the fact that, “poor people are always in a position to face the challenges unlike the middle class people.”
Micro Finance partners in Sri Lanka who are in the Lanka Micro Finance Practioners’ Association network provide micro finance and non financial services to grass root communities. The members in the network represent the marginalized communities in the country and they are supported by the Sri Lankan Government, fellow members and the donor agencies.