Friday, March 23, 2012

Noble laureate : Don't look for a job create your own


By Shahfizal Musa
Pix Shahiddan Saidi

BANGI, 25 Feb. 2012 -Aided by technology, a new economy is
taking shape that enables people to create jobs instead of looking for one.

The National University of Malaysia (UKM) Laureate in Residence Professor Muhammad Yunus in saying this believes that everyone including the poor can be a successful entrepreneur if given guidance.

Giving a talk to a group of women entrepreneurs of small businesses here today, the founder of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh likened the poor to bonsai trees. There is nothing wrong with the plant. But because the tree is planted in a pot, it can only grow to a very limited height.

His efforts in helping the poor help themselves through the bank earned him a Nobel prize in 2006. His idea of using capitalism to help the poor took off spreading like wild fire engulfing the rest of the world.

Similarly, he said, society never gave the poor the base to grow bigger. They is nothing wrong with poor people, it is not their fault, society never gave them a chance to realise their true potential.

“Sincerity is of the upmost importance even before trying to help the poor with any success.  Their mind set has to be changed first. And usually there are several layers of fears and assumptions that is stopping them from becoming successful. Each one of the layers needed to be peeled off.”

He said that was evident from his experience with the Grameen Bank which he founded for the poor including beggars. It took him quite a while to convince the poor especially the women, that they can generate their own income.

“At first no one wanted to take money from the bank to start an income generating project, because they lack the confidence in themselves. So patience is required”.
Technology gives freedom

Today, he said, technology has made it possible for man and women to be happy. “They can take care of their family without having to be stuck in the office from 9 to 5. They will have the freedom to be with their families and generate their own income without having to depend on a job”.

He said with the help of technology an accountant can become an expert that offers his services not just to his town but the whole world.

Technology has come to a level that we can reach out to the world and not be limited to our towns and villages.

Prof Muhammad gave his talk to a group of women entrepreneurs of small businesses. The event was organised by Centre of Women Leadership to help women realise their true potential.

Prof Muhammad said that he believes that everybody can be a successful entrepreneur if they are given guidance. This holds true even for the poor.
Empowering Women 

He also urged women to take part of the new economy. He said when he first started the Grameen bank it helped the poor to borrow money and create their own income generating vehicle. It was a success with virtually everyone paying back their loans.

Prof Muhammad Yunus said he discovered one major difference on the outflow of income they generated according to their gender. For the women most of the income will go to the family including their children’s need.

But if the borrower was a man, the money generated from the capital, were usually spent on himself first before it goes to the family.

In other words lending money to a woman will give more social benefits than lending money to a man.

Thus the need to empower women with income generating opportunities because their earnings will benefit the whole family.

But when you try to empower women you will definitely step on a few toes. Usually these are men who are comfortable with the status quo of women being subservient.

Prof Muhammad Yunus found it odd that several women rights groups also opposed his idea of lending money to women to enable them to start their own income generating projects.
Challenges in empowering women

In giving women the power to generate their own income, it might be seen as a threat. Despite the rhetoric of women empowerment some people do not want to see women do better than them .

No man would like to be told that his wife is wearing the pants in the house.

But the fears that some men have about women earning more than them was a misconception. He said in many cases the relationship between husbands and wives have improved when the wife can contribute to the family financially.

So it basically strengthen the family institution and not threaten it, he said.
Giving Tradition a new leash of life

Tradition is usually the stumbling block in empowering women. Most tradition originate out of necessity. Harsh and hazardous environment, may have required women to sit and take care of their young ones in caves. While the man go out and hunt for food.

But as the environment is tamed by technology the man’s role has also to change.

Tradition, he said, is a living thing, it is not a set of rules that is carved in stone. It should evolve with time.

If empowering women can lead to thousands of families climbing out of poverty, then it is natural that it should be made the new tradition.

Another subject used to hinder efforts to empower women financially is religion. It is not religion per se that prevents women from being financially capable. But it’s the fear of men losing their status quo of being the dominant one in a family.

He said it is not religion that hampers efforts to help women realise their potential. It is the interpretation of religion from a certain view point.

Islam, he said, gave women the right to own property and inheritance. While before Islam they are not so entitled.

Empowering them, he said, was not about giving women the upper hand over man.  It is about using entrepreneurship and capitalism to solve society’s most pressing problem.

Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research and Innovation Affars)  Prof Dato’ Dr Rahmah Mohamed; Director of the Centre for Women’s Leadership, Assoc Prof Dr Madeline Berma; women entrepreneurs, lecturers and students attended the talk.

No comments:

Post a Comment