Women who shine

By Iqra Sarfaraz
Tue, 04, 18

This week, You! highlights a few success stories of women who changed their lives by starting their own businesses with the help of a microfinance institution...

This week, You! highlights a few success stories of women who changed their lives by starting their own businesses with the help of a microfinance institution...

According to a research report, 65 per cent of the population in Pakistan comes under the age bar of 35. It also records that majority of them (around 90 per cent) are running small businesses like tailoring and auto repairing shops to support their households. However, most of them have little access to credits from banks or other services. This is when microfinance organisations come to the rescue of such people to provide them loans for starting up their own businesses and becoming independent financially.

Microfinancing or microlending has been identified as a powerful means to alleviate poverty, as it aims at empowering individuals through the generation of sustainable livelihoods. It caters to micro-entrepreneurs and usually operates within a subset of the local population whose economic status falls below a pre-defined level of poverty. Therefore, many governments in the developing economies encourage setting up of microfinance institutions (MFIs). One such company is Finca - a global microfinance network. In May 2013, it made one of the largest direct foreign investments into Pakistan’s microfinance sector by becoming the majority share holder in Kashf Microfinance Bank Limited - that comes under Kashf Foundation. The foundation is one of the biggest specialised non-profit microfinance institutions in the country, empowering women, men and their dependents with the means for entrepreneurship, sustainable growth opportunities as well as with the spirit of positive affirmation. In November 2013, Kashf Microfinance Bank Limited was renamed as Finca Microfinance Bank Limited. The bank has changed the life of many people especially women, to equitably expand economic opportunities through their SME loans (funding of small and medium-sized enterprises). This week, You! highlights a few success stories of women who changed their lives by setting up their own businesses and became the sole breadwinners of their families with the help of funds received from Finca Microfinance Bank. Read on...

The story of determination and courage

It’s a man’s world they say. Little do they know that a woman like Shazia Sultana (40) has proven otherwise. Belonging to a small city of Jaranwala in Faisalabad district, Shazia is the eldest among her siblings. She used to live with her drug-addict father and her mother, who was the one running the household. Unfortunately, Shazia’s mother passed away, after which she had to take up the responsibility of her brothers and sisters. She lived amid a community of close-minded people who don’t allow women to work in a male-dominated market, let alone starting her own business; but she did it anyway.

In the beginning, it was tough to provide for her family with just basic schooling. Her married life didn’t have much luck either as her husband was unemployed with no regard for their five children. That was when she put her foot down and decided to take matters into her own hands. It wasn’t easy to start her own business in a conservative society but she convinced her husband and got a loan from Finca Microfinance Bank Limited. She started her own garments’ business, now she is giving a respectful life to other women as well by providing them with jobs at her shop.

Her confidence and determination to achieve her goals were clear, so she took a stand for herself. She decided to expand her business and add multiple products including ladies’ garments to the list. This step taken by Shazia was a source of motivation for other women in the local community, as they were now comfortable purchasing articles from a female shopkeeper.

She proved the society wrong by taking care of her family’s expenses, providing education to her children for their better future.

Creating new space for women to work and increasing her clientele, Shazia is all set to expand her business in Faisalabad city, very soon.

The one who broke the glass ceilings

Salma Rafique, a 35-year-old woman residing in one of the rural areas of Pakistan, dreamt for a bright future of the young children of her area. Despite being told off that women can’t run a business, she decided to take a risk and work towards her dream. Although, it wasn’t a smooth ride to start her very own school when she had no resources, yet it was made possible with the help of the loan she received via microfinancing. No one could have thought that such a facility would be available in a rural area. But, with a passion to run a successful business, she kept burning the midnight oil; and soon ‘Sun Rising School’ for primary kids became a reality. Luckily, students started coming in for admissions, which became a turning point in Salma’s life. As the school started making good profit, Salma thought about taking it to the next level which was adding senior grades in her school. In order to provide education to more students, her school served as a platform to grow.

As she continues to break the glass ceilings with her small institution, there is hope for more women like this to break stereotypes and lead a happy and prosperous live.

Living her best life...

In the middle of difficult trials, God shows us the ray of light. Such was the case with Bushra Rasheed, a divorcee and a mother of four children. With her youngest child being just one, she was left alone to manage her own finances without a penny in hand after her husband left her for another woman. With the passage of time, her financial status became too low to survive. But she never gave up her hopes and started her own beauty parlour after she received financial assistance from Kashf Foundation. According to her, the organisation has provided her a lifeline. Bushra had a knack for makeup and styling so she thought about utilising her skills to fulfil her responsibilities as a sole provider for her children. With her never-ending strength, she worked towards building and expanding her parlour.

In June 2009, she approached Finca Microfinance Bank for a loan, in order to expand her business out in the market. Having found the perfect location, she was still double-minded on whether or not to take the loan. Bushra not only accepted the business credit but became a strong role model for her kids that all dads usually are. Fast forward five years, she now has a boutique along with her parlour running successfully. Also, she has been a source of providing jobs to women looking for work.

To this day, she works with the same zeal that she had in the beginning. She also fulfils her duties as a mother by caring and providing her children with quality education to secure their future. When her husband left her and their children, they had nothing. Now, she is able to enjoy a good lifestyle and has even purchased a brand new car.

As these women continue to prove the society wrong by running their successful businesses; it is safe to say that the microfinance banking can help turn your dreams into reality with just a little bit of help from their end. Most of the people consider microfinacing as giving charity, but it is actually helping people with lack of financial support and letting them build their business just the way people from affluent backgrounds do.