Exploring the potential of low-income women in Pakistan

Photo Credit: Kashf Foundation

Photo Credit: Kashf Foundation

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Microfinance savings and/or borrowing groups linked with
health education, health financing, and health product delivery

>>Authored by Roshaneh Zafar, Executive Director, Kashf Foundation

April is the Month of MicrofinanceLearn more

April is the Month of Microfinance
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Last year, Kashf Foundation made a Campaign Commitment to increase the number of persons from low-income communities who were accessing health insurance to 100,000, and Kashf surpassed this target by nearly one-third. At the end of 2014, Kashf was able to cover 129,000 women, men, and children from poor households with health insurance.

“Upon reaching the hospital, I looked hesitantly at my daughter, but seeing her face full of pain and agony, I realized I had to be brave for her. The hospital was the biggest I had ever seen, and I was sure that the doctors would not even consider treating my daughter. But, as soon as I showed them my insurance card, not only was I treated with the utmost respect, they arranged the best possible care for my daughter without taking a single penny from me.” — Noshaba

Noshaba with daughter Rabia Farooq-Kashf health insurance client

Noshaba with daughter Rabia Farooq; Kashf health insurance clients
Photo Credit: Kashf Foundation

Noshaba and her daughter belong to one of those Kashf families who have been able to access high quality healthcare as result of the Kashf Micro-health Insurance product. Kashf’s innovative product provides health insurance coverage to the entire household up to Rs. 30,000 of in-patient expenses for every member of the household! Kashf’s health insurance also covers maternity benefits and provides clients with a work-compensation settlement if either of the main breadwinners for the household is hospitalized.

During 2014, Kashf worked with the health insurance company to organize 15 health camps and 17 out-patient sessions in low-income communities to create awareness about identification and prevention of disease. Through their insurance, low-income households also have access to a tele-health helpline where they can call to discuss medical problems and symptoms.

Client-centered product design

Kashf Foundation committed in 2014 to make data-driven decisions, using meta-data trends to optimize products and services to meet clients’ needs and to increase the impact of Kashf on the lives of clients. To this end, Kashf engaged with the Centre for Research in Economics and Business for a randomized control trial (RCT) and has collected the baseline data for 990 clients. These clients will be re-evaluated in August 2015 and the end line report will be available by the end of 2015.

Kashf also committed to create credit products aligned to the specific cash-flow needs of the most popular women-led micro-businesses. In the last year, Kashf has undertaken the research and development on these products and tested some prototypes. Kashf will be working throughout 2015 on improving these prototypes and streamlining and optimizing the processes further along with contextualizing its products and services to better service the clients.

Photo Credit: Kashf Foundation

Photo Credit: Kashf Foundation

Building client capacity

Kashf understands the equal importance of building the capacity of women entrepreneurs to take more informed and confident decisions. To this end, Kashf has invested in the training and development of low-income women entrepreneurs, having trained more than 600,000 females in financial education and literacy by December 2013.

As part of their 2014 Commitment, Kashf Foundation trained an additional 200,000 women in financial education, bringing the cumulative outreach of Kashf’s Financial Education program to over 800,000 women.

Kashf’s financial education trainings use adult teaching methods to equip female participants with the required skills and tools through story-telling, games, and experiential learning. Improved financial literacy has helped women entrepreneurs to understand their saving situations better, save more, and attain higher economic status and more economic security.

Photo Credit: Kashf Foundation

Photo Credit: Kashf Foundation

Kashf has made continuous efforts to promote the business case for investing in low-income households, and especially in women, and in addressing the issue of access to training opportunities and promoting quality trainings. Kashf is focusing in 2015 on providing vocational skills training to 760 women of rural and marginalized population of Lahore on three trades — domestic tailoring, Ada work, and beautician — and establishing their linkages with the market to support their income generation through entrepreneurship development.

Relevant Resources

A Comprehensive Approach to Helping the Poor Lift Themselves out of Poverty

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Partnerships against Poverty Summit Banner with logos

Going the Extra Mile: From Safety Nets to Pathways out of Poverty
Track: Partnerships Targeting the Vulnerable
Date: Thursday, October 10th
Time: 9:00 – 10:30 AM

Going the Extra Mile_Picture _Roshaneh Zafar_288x360

Roshaneh Zafar, Managing Director, Kashf Foundation

Partnerships between financial institutions, governments, and social welfare programs are essential for empowering the extreme poor reduce vulnerability and gain self-sufficiency. Moderating the 2013 Partnerships against Poverty Summit plenary session “Going the Extra Mile: From Safety Nets to Pathways out of Poverty,” Roshaneh Zafar of the Kashf Foundation (Pakistan) noted that “poverty is a complex matter. We need multiple solutions, we need synergy, we need leverageability, we need scalability; and we all need to work together and do much more.”

The discussion opened with Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) of the Philippines Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Juliano-Soliman, who told of their “convergence strategy,” a means to help beneficiaries graduate and stay out poverty through conditional cash transfer (CCT) community-driven development and sustainable livelihoods converging. Through this program, they also partner with microfinance institutions to provide credit to clients that need larger loans than DSWD provides (10,000 pesos, or approximately $230).

Juan Borga (Inter-American Development Bank) and Secretary Soliman

Juan Borga (Inter-American Development Bank) and Secretary Soliman

Juan Borga of the Inter-American Development Bank shared their efforts toward poverty reduction. Working mostly with conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs, they are trying to create a system that creates a relationship between the recipients of the CCTs to the financial institutions so that they will have “the right instruments [to save] and the right incentives to do it.” Commonly, “the financial institutions are not really providing them with the right products they’d like to have.”

Nelly Otieno of CARE International in Kenya and Yves Moury of Fundación Capital (Colombia) highlighted the necessity of building assets through methods such as savings groups and CCTs in order to create pathways out of poverty and to prevent long term dependence on financial programs.

Moury, in particular, stressed the importance of asset building and capacity building as a catalyst to spur sustainability and self-sufficiency–and thus an exit strategy for the implementers. According to Moury, “Linking savings and CCTs has been just like putting wheels on suitcases—a powerful combination.”

The speakers agreed that health insurance, mobile phones, identification cards, social protection, and bank accounts, working in tandem, greatly help to supplement financial inclusion initiatives and create pathways out of poverty.

Syed Hashemi,  CS Ghosh, and Nelly Otieno

Syed Hashemi, CS Ghosh, and Nelly Otieno

Syed Hashemi of BRAC Development Institute (Bangladesh) spoke about incorporating governments into exit strategies that allow clients to protect their assets and take advantage of new opportunities. He emphasized that, “through national governments, we can come up with an integrated, holistic, national social protection system that combines CCTs with graduation programs so we can collectively achieve this commitment of eradicating extreme poverty by 2030.”

Hashemi also touched on the cost-effectiveness of social protection policies that include safety nets and offer self-employment because, although graduation programs that include extremely intense monitoring and coaching have been seen to have an initially higher cost, they require a shorter timeline.

Innovative methods of providing health services to the poor are equally crucial to comprehensively reducing the amount of individuals living in extreme poverty. Chandra Shekhar Ghosh of Bandhan (India) stated, “Poverty is a complex syndrome. It is not only possible to eliminate poverty through credit support to the poor.”

23_plenary_audience(4)_MarciaMetcalfe+CarmenVelasco+JohnHatch_400x300_photo credit - Vikash Kumar

(Photo credit: Vikash Kumar Photography)

Organizations and government institutions working toward eliminating poverty must implement additional services beyond credit, including social, health, and educational programs that target the underlying causes of poverty beyond financial inclusion.

Overall, the plenary constructively critiqued the current successes, challenges, and future opportunities in the effort to create the pathways the extreme poor can take advantage of to lift themselves out of poverty.

However, the speakers recognized that the road ahead is difficult. As Secretary Soliman stated, “We hesitate to say graduation or exit because poverty is very complex. The notion of graduation gives the impression that we are done. But with poverty you can never be done, and that’s why we call it transition.

Watch the full video of this plenary