Video Corner | Shazia Abbas on microfinance creating entrepreneurs

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18th Microcredit Summit Video Corner Interview Series

Shazia Abbas, CEO of Micro Options in Pakistan, interviewed by Miranda Beshara, editor of the Arabic Microfinance Gateway.

Shazia Abbas of Micro Options (Pakistan) discusses her organization, the role of microfinance to help end poverty, and the lessons learned at the 18th Microcredit Summit with Miranda Beshara, editor of the Arabic Microfinance Gateway. Micro Options provides microcredit services for agriculture, livestock, and alternative energy (i.e., solar and bio-gas), combining access to capital with skills training with a focus on women and youth.

Abbas says that the Summit is a great forum and the biggest networking event for the region and globally. On her experience in Abu Dhabi, she appreciates “learning how other people are doing this work differently, and especially the opportunities we can leverage. That was wonderful. Every session is very important, and I was confused which to pick and not to pick,” Abbas adds with a chuckle. “I will definitely take some learning that I can cooperate at my organization so that we can deliver even better.”

Abbas echoes Professor Muhammad Yunus on the role of microfinance, stressing that access to capital and finance should be a fundamental human right. “If you are educated but you don’t have access to employment,” says Abbas, “you can become an entrepreneur. We provide social and economic development opportunity especially to rural areas and women.”

She continues, “We believe microcredit is directly linked and can directly impact on poverty, but implementation needs to be strategized properly. Ultimately, provision of capital and using this capital in a way that you make people entrepreneurs and make people stand on their own feet.” She concludes that this is how microfinance can “accelerate” people out of poverty.

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
Learn more

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

News Round-up


A report on impact investing, a US women’s clothing brand uses the PPI on their workers, learning from RSBY, and results from a report on NRSP’s microinsurance program.Español Français
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Institutional Action Plan Raffle Winner: BRAC Pakistan

Congratulations to this week’s winner of the Raffle for Institutional Action Plan Submitters, BRAC Pakistan!

Submit your IAP to be included in the next Raffle (download the IAP | submit your completed IAP)

BRAC Pakistan’s Microfinance Program

Microfinance is a powerful tool that the poor can utilize to inch their way out of poverty by taking advantage of new opportunities and better managing the sufferings they face. The social intermediation embedded in microfinance in the form of group functions can build social capital among the poor which, combined with financial capital has the potential to be powerful mix in the fight against poverty. The formation of social capital through the microfinance process can also be used as an entry point to challenge other structures that perpetuate poverty. It is this holistic vision of the possibilities for poverty alleviation that defines BRAC’s vision of microfinance.

BRAC’s program aims to strengthen the income of the poor by providing easy access to institutional lending to start small and medium income generating activities, as well as mobilize women to contribute to household income.

The overall objectives of BRAC Pakistan’s microfinance program are to significantly contribute to the reduction of poverty, create self-employment opportunities, enhance household income level and reduce the vulnerabilities of the rural poor of Pakistan, especially women.

BRAC started its operation in Pakistan by initiating a small scale microfinance (MF) program in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province in August 2007. Currently, BRAC Pakistan has 97 branch offices across the country. In the next five years, BRAC plans to set up a total of 240 branch offices across Pakistan to run its pro-poor microfinance program.

Key Features of the Microfinance Program

  • Loan Range: (PKR 10,000 – PKR 50,000).
  • Loan Security Deposit: 10% of the sanctioned amount (refundable after repayment).
  • Service Charge: 20% (Flat) annually.
  • Repayment Mechanism: Payable weekly in 46 equal installments.
  • Repayment period: 1 year for traditional business and 6 months for seasonal business.
  • No collateral is required.
  • After four group-meetings the loan disbursement starts taking place.

Program Impact

  • Promoting gender equity by enabling women to become breadwinners, alongside their male counterparts.
  • Increased participation of women in income generation thus reducing poverty and enhancing social progress.
  • Fostering the development of human potential by empowering women by helping them achieve their potential through vocational training and acquisition of technical knowledge. This has resulted in numerous income generation activities, such as sewing clothes and making handicrafts.
  • Improving people’s living standards. Many of the members of the microfinance program are now leading a prosperous life and their children are receiving educations. The majority of members have expanded their program and recruited more females, contributing to the income of other families.