As I begin to reflect on 2007 and visualize the way forward for our institution in 2008, I am reminded of the importance of humility; humility that comes from a deep and innate sense of knowing our weaknesses and understanding our strengths. I would like to share an ancient proverb with you which can guide us in the coming year:
When you see a person of worth, think of how you may emulate him. When you see one who is unworthy, examine yourself. The year 2007 has been replete with some difficult circumstances, which include the heightened security problems and the growing economic crisis, and yet the virtue of humility teaches us to forever remain positive about the potential of our community and our people.
To emphasise my point, I would like to share a story of Baji Parveen, who believed self respect was far more important than accepting hand outs to meet adverse circumstances. Baji Parveen taught me how important it is to say “no” to hand outs and to be able to assert one’s sense of self reliance, a lesson that we as Pakistanis need to learn. Baji Parveen’s husband, when faced with the growing indignities of poverty and his inability to meet his family’s needs, decided to take his own life. In the aftermath of this event, Baji Parveen was not only left with the social stigma of her husband’s suicide but also with the responsibility of providing for her young children.
As a consequence, many of her neighbor’s collected money to help her deal with her crisis, however, instead of spending this money on daily requirements, she decided to start her own business with the amount collected. This decision catapulted her into many unknown realms; she left the safe environs of her community and took a 350 kilometer journey to the north west of the country to the city of Peshawar. All around her was a terrain where women were barely visible, where their faces are forever shrouded by layers of tradition – it was in such an environment that Baji Parveen struck her first business deal, negotiating with hardy Pathan traders to purchase fabric. She returned with this stock and managed to sell if for a small profit.
Armed with confidence after this initial transaction, she learnt about Kashf Foundation’s loan programme and quickly enrolled herself as a member of Kashf’s credit group. Today Baji Parveen has not only built her own house but most importantly has been able to educate her children – children who had been orphaned so early on in their lives, instead of growing up on people’s hand outs now live with dignity on their mother’s growing income.
Human dignity and its restoration is one of Pakistan’s biggest challenges in 2008. Poverty suicides are the undocumented tragedies that abound in every street and in every community. As an institution Kashf Foundation is committed to preventing poverty suicides by bringing low income families within the purview of Pakistan’s economic system, where economic rights are for one and all and not attributed to a few. Often when countries embark on the path of economic development, financial inequities tend to grow. This is the stage that Pakistan is currently undergoing – however, as demonstrated by Baji Parveen, to combat inequity the solution is not to provide subsidies to the poor, but to give them market based solutions where they can be active economic agents.
I would urge each one of you to sit down and listen to the voices of our clients for they are the best teachers, who know well how we can combat the growing terrors of poverty, inequity and economic marginalization. Our aim is lofty and ambitious, we intend to reach out to 1 million such courageous women by 2010.
I hope you will all remember the significance of your contribution in restoring the dignity and unleashing the potential of our people, especially our women. You have the ability to prevent any further men and women in Pakistan from taking their own lives due to the growing frustrations and deprivations of poverty.
May Allah be with us on this journey!
Warm regards, Roshaneh Zafar Founder and Managing Director, KASHF Foundation February 15, 2008 Lahore