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'Poverty is poison': How lending organization succeeded by helping the poorest

Earl D.C. Bracamonte - Philstar.com
'Poverty is poison': How lending organization succeeded by helping the poorest
Muhammad Amjad Saqib

MANILA, Philippines — Muhammad Amjad Saqib's interest-free micro finance program has puzzled economic pundits to this day.

The organization he founded, the Akhuwat brotherhood, is the largest lending organization in Pakistan. The Akhuwat is based on the Islamic tradition espoused by the prophet Mohammed on his 'Mawakhat' teachings. 

Mawakhat, which means "solidarity," teaches the virtue of sharing to those who have none - a solution written some 1,450 years ago. Its aim is to turn borrowers into donors - to build up one who has lost hope. The borrowers themselves are also the lending program's very supporters.

The Akhuwat brotherhood succeeded because of the optimism to help the very poor. It is a mission of millions. To date, the lending program has helped 4.8-million Pakistanis and the aggregate amount has reached US$ 9-million interest-free loans, with a 99.9% repayment rate.

"Poverty is pain. Poverty is poison. Let's be wise for the wiseless, and be a hope for the hopeless. There could be no greater honor. We are working on the ground and take pride in collective risks. It is a validation of a concept and a legacy for the future," enthused Mr. Sadiq.

"I started my career in civil service and that prepared me for the journey ahead; after I parted ways with working for the government. Adversity and skeptics are everywhere. Progress begins where economic wisdom ends, sharing altruism is the spirit of sacrifice and giving," he added.

The Akhuwat brotherhood is currently serving 400 cities in and around Pakistan - from the heights of the Himalayas to the shores of the Arabian Sea.

For being "a visionary who founded one of the largest microfinance institutions in Pakistan, servicing millions of families," Saqib was chosen as among this year's recipients of the 63rd Ramon Magsaysay Awards (RMA), bestowed by The Ramon Magsaysay Awards Foundation (RMAF) and considered as Asia's premier prize and highest honor.

Related: Philippines-based American bestowed 'Asia's premier prize, highest honor'

Another RMA recipient, WatchDoc, a young media organization that offers film distribution, as well as screen films in villages, schools, and indigenous communities.

Indonesia's media landscape has been shaken by two passionate media persons who present their visuals to reflect their causes. They started their investigative pursuits because they felt that public issues have not been presented with peoples' concern.

The entity has over 150 film titles, with over 200,000 viewers per video alone. Their documentary "Sexy Killers" has enjoyed 36-million viewership, as of last count. The WatchDoc duo has been filming the lives of ordinary people, as well as the environmental impact of the palm oil industry, while enjoying credibility and journalistic integrity.

"Two years ago, we started WatchDoc. We wanted to promote human rights through documentaries. We are the underground and ground secret movement that exposes the struggles of civil society," revealed Anghy Panca Kurniawan, the group founder.

Its documentary feature "Kinipan" (The End Game) is available and accessible online.

"Throughout its history, the RMA has only been cancelled thrice: First, in 1970 due to the financial crisis; Second, in 1990 when the island of Luzon was shaken by a massive earthquake; and in 2020, a year of disruption brought about by the global pandemic," shared Philippine Vice-President Leonor Robredo in her keynote speech.

"Uncertainties still remain. So many have lost their loved ones and our economies have yet to recover. The Ramon Magsaysay Awards recognizes the human spirit that cannot be darkened by any of life's uncertainties.

"Four individuals and an organization rose up to the challenges. Empathy is the default. We hurt ourselves when we hurt others. Like Ka Dudoy, let us plant hope seedling by seedling until the sea recognizes our efforts. And let us all salute our laureates - modern-day heroes that make us proud to be Asian," VP Leni said in closing.

Presented in the virtual format, and live-streamed throughout the rest of Asia, this year's awarding ceremonies was hosted by RMAF president Susan Afan.

RELATED: ‘I dedicate my entire life in saving others’: COVID-19 frontliner receives Ramon Magsaysay Award 2021

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