Nov 142010
 
Kamran Azim, COO Kashf Foundation
Image by Acumen Fund via Flickr

An old friend of mine here fights terrorists, but not the way you’re thinking.

She could barely defeat a truculent child in hand-to-hand combat, and if she ever picked up an AK-47 — well, you’d pray it was unloaded.

Roshaneh Zafar is an American- educated banker who fights extremism with microfinance. She has dedicated her life to empowering some of Pakistan’s most impoverished women and giving them the tools to run businesses of their own. The United States should learn from warriors like her.

Bullets and drones may kill terrorists, but Roshaneh creates jobs and educational opportunities for hundreds of thousands of people — draining the swamps that breed terrorists.

“Charity is limited, but capitalism isn’t,” Roshaneh said. “If you want to change the world, you need market-based solutions.” That’s the point of microfinance — typically, lending very poor people small amounts of money so that they can buy a rickshaw or raw materials and start a tiny business.

Roshaneh grew up in elite circles here in Lahore and studied business at the Wharton School and economics at Yale. After a stint at the World Bank, she returned to Pakistan in 1996 to start her microfinance organization. She called it the Kashf Foundation.

Everybody thought Roshaneh was nuts. And at first nothing went right. The poor refused to borrow. Or if they borrowed, they didn’t repay their loans.

But Roshaneh persisted, and today Kashf has 152 branches around the country. It has dispersed more than $200 million to more than 300,000 families. Now Roshaneh is moving into microsavings, to help the poor build assets, as well as programs to train the poor to run businesses more efficiently. She is even thinking of expanding into schools for the poor.

Read more . . .

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