Microfinance and Entrepreneurship – Roshaneh Zafar’s story

 It was Muhammad Yunus who created the Grameen Bank as a way to provide finance to the poor of Bangladesh.

He wrote in 2007

The concept of microcredit did not exist before I initiated Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, which basically recognized that credit without collateral is a fundamental right of the poor. Our success with this in my own country has been widely replicated all over the world including in some of the richest countries; and the Nobel Peace Prize 2006 for Grameen Bank and myself is one recognition of that success.”
Since that time microfinance models such as the Grameen Bank have emerged across the world, especially in poor economies.
Roshaneh Zafar quit her job at the World Bank in 1995 to establish the Kashf Foundation.
 She carried with her a moment of inspiration and a powerful vision for the future. These came from a chance meeting with Muhammad Yunus, which instilled a strong belief in empowering women—socially and economically—through the Grameen Bank model.
Ten years later, after plenty of opposition along the way, she has proven her critics wrong by showing that women-centered and women-managed microfinance programs in Pakistan can indeed flourish and succeed. Beginning with 15 clients in 1996, Kashf boasts more than 500,000 families. The organization has not only provided women with $265 million in loans, but it has also expanded to provide women with education, training, and employment opportunities.

In Pakistan, many women contribute to the economy through informal activities for which they aren’t remunerated. One of the key challenges is to build the business case for investing in women’s economic work, which is something that blends both microfinance and gender issues.

With social sector projects, it can often take a generation to see any real change. However, with microfinance, this is fast-tracked. The moment the women start earning that extra $10, $20, or $}30—things begin to change in the household. They are able to make choices for themselves and for their children, in terms of what they eat, what they wear, and where they study, and the long-term decisions they make for their future.

Microfinance is often referred to as the ripple effect: you change one woman, she’s going to change ten more. To give you a simple example: we all know that social contact enables people to progress and access further opportunities.  In Pakistan, most women are connected only to their families; they do not have the opportunity to socialize with women who are non-relatives. The introduction of microfinance is changing this. Now there are communities across Pakistan where it’s the norm for women to leave the house to go to a meeting or to take part in a financial education program—and people don’t question it. These women are the role models for current and future generations.