The microfinance pioneer is one of five people and groups recognized by the Ramon Magsaysay Award
Amjad Saqib of the Akhuwat Foundation was on Tuesday named as one of five recipients of the Ramon Magsaysay Award, widely considered Asia’s equivalent to the Nobel Peace Prize.
“The [Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation] board of trustees recognizes the intelligence and compassion that enabled him to create the largest microfinance institution in Pakistan; his inspiring belief that human goodness and solidarity will find ways to eradicate poverty; and his determination to stay with a mission that has already helped millions of Pakistani families,” read a statement issued by the organization announcing the honor.
It said the 64-year-old’s Akhuwat Foundation is now the largest microfinance institution in Pakistan, having distributed 4.8 million interest-free loans worth around $900 million, helping three million families. Since its founding in 2001, it said Akhuwat had used places of worship for loan disbursements and promoted volunteerism among staff at clients to transform borrowers into donors. “[Akhuwat] fosters diversity and inclusion, serving all—irrespective of religion, caste, color and gender,” it added.
Prime Minister Imran Khan congratulated Saqib for winning Asia’s “highest honor” this year. “We are proud of his achievement as we move forward in creating a welfare state based on Riyasat-e-Madina Model,” he said in a posting on Twitter.
Apart from Saqib, Bangladesh’s Firdausi Qadri, 70, was awarded for her “life-long devotion to the scientific profession” and “untiring contributions to vaccine development” that has saved millions of lives. Employed at the International Center for Diarrheal Disease Research in Dhaka, she had been cited as playing a “key role” in creating more affordable vaccines to combat cholera and typhoid.
Qadri was also recognized for her role in a mass vaccination campaign in Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh, helping prevent a cholera outbreak.
Another winner was Filipino fisherman Roberto Ballon, 53, who was recognized for helping “revive a dying fishing industry” on the southern island of Mindanao. Ballon, with government support and the aid of other small-scale fishermen, replanted 500 hectares of mangrove forests in the region, boosting the aquatic resources that serve as their primary source of livelihood.
American Steven Muncy, the founder of the Philippines-based non-governmental organization Community and Family Services International, was recognized for helping refugees, assisting victims of natural disasters and getting former child soldiers back to school in Asia. Indonesian documentary maker Watchdoc, which focuses on human rights, social justice and the environment, was cited for its “highly principled crusade for an independent media organization.”
The award distribution ceremony was held virtually this year to avoid the spread of coronavirus; there was no event last year due to the pandemic. The Ramon Magsaysay Award—named after a Filipino president killed in a plane crash—was established in 1957 to honor people and groups tackling development problems.