Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Fighting Poverty With Microfinance

Roshaneh Zafar is an American-educated banker who fights extremism with microfinance in Pakistan. Roshaneh, an inspiration to anyone interested in developing Pakistan, has dedicated her life to empowering some of Pakistan’s most impoverished women and giving them the tools to run businesses of their own. Roshaneh’s objectives align with one of our key talking points, which is to alleviate poverty in order to reduce the likelihood of terrorists/extremists from preying on the poor in these areas. Roshaneh is the “warrior” on the ground doing just this. She is helping to create jobs and educational opportunities for hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis. “Charity is limited, but capitalism isn’t,” Roshaneh said. “If you want to change the world, you need market-based solutions.”

Roshaneh founded the Kashf Foundation in 1996 to provide microloans to poor people so that they can buy a rickshaw or raw materials to start a tiny business. Despite a few setbacks, Roshaneh persisted and has since dispersed more than $200 million to more than 300,000 families. Furthermore, a study found that after 4 years, Kashf borrowers are more likely than others to enjoy improved economic conditions. And according to the journalist Nicholas Kristof that is exactly what he has seen over the years during his visits to Pakistan.

The main takeaway point from this story is something that we can all relate to, which is this: “helping people start businesses, create jobs and support education is a potent way to undermine extremism. We Americans overinvest in firepower to defeat extremism and underinvest in development…The toolkit to fight terrorism includes not only missiles but also microfinance and economic opportunity.”

In my opinion, taking heed of this message is absolutely necessary for peace to be permanently brought to this region. Additionally, the U.S.’s public perception of extremism (or terrorism) has often been distorted by media sources, and the above message is a refreshing challenge to the public's perception about who is an extremist and how they should be handled.

- Clare O.

SOURCE: New York Times