Salma Kanwal - Lahore
Eight years ago, after acquiring loan from Kashf Foundation, Salma Kanwal was able to establish a doll making business from within her home. With four children to provide for, Salma needed to make ends meet, while providing a stable environment for her children to grow up in. A major source of motivation for Salma came from her desire to educate her children and so she took matters into her own hands, going against the norms of a traditional, patriarchal community and began her own business. Currently, Salma is able to produce a total of 400 dolls per week, which she hand stitches at home. She also employs a further 10-12 women from her neighbourhood who assist her in stitching dolls.
Over the next few months, Salma plans on purchasing machines which will then increase her ability to produce not only better quality dolls, but also create 1000 dolls per week. Salma’s husband is incredibly supportive of her work and she claims that without his support she would have been unable to come this far along. During her journey with Kashf for the last 8 years, Salma showed great diligence, stating that she learnt not just the skills appropriate for her business but also those that helped her in everyday life. She is now aware of how she must conduct herself and communicate with people daily. Gender differences don’t impact her behavior now, particularly when she goes out into the market; male vendors do not intimidate her as they did before. Members of the community look up to her for motivation and inspiration. Salma constantly seeks to better herself and takes every opportunity to attend Kashf training programmes.
“When you start working, even if initially there is no profit, the very experience in itself is a great lesson that helps you out in the future" says Salma.
Rehana Javaid - Faisalabad
Rehana Javaid runs a cash bag stitching business with her son, Kashif. Struck by poverty she struggled to manage her household expenditure and thus decided to start her own business. Her son assisted her in her new venture. While her son dealt with clients, Rehana handled the production. Today, a majority of their clients are banks such as The National Bank of Pakistan and Soneri Bank in major cities of Pakistan, including Lahore and Islamabad.
Owing to the techniques learnt from Kashf’s trainings, Rehana was able to successfully establish links with a wide range of clients, which resulted in the business expanding substantially, with a capacity to produce around 400 bags in one day. She currently sells these bags between Rs. 6 and Rs. 10. When the order flow increases, they employ female workers from the community who also stitch these bags from within their own homes. This business allows the duo to live a comfortable life. As someone who was never given the opportunity to attain an education, Rehana is an avid supporter of educating the youth, especially girls. Currently her daughters are in high school and she aims to send them to college as well. Rehana’s business’s success shows how gender equality in every sphere of life encourages growth and prosperity. She claims to have benefited greatly from Kashf’s gender trainings which helped her work with her son in harmony.
“I am very happy that I am in a position to educate my children. Being uneducated myself, I know first-hand what the disadvantages are and I would never want my children to suffer from them. My business allows me to achieve this particular goal and I will keep working hard to excel” says Rehana.
Rabia Hussain - Karachi
Rabia Hussain heads a catering business which started with humble beginnings. Living in a crowded home, Rabia and her family realized that poverty was getting the best of them. In an attempt to find an alternative source of income, Rabia started making rolls at home, which her children would sell in the local market after school. Once her sales gained momentum and people started to appreciate her cooking skills, Rabia gradually expanded her range of items. After acquiring a loan from Kashf, Rabia was able to conduct her business on a much larger scale, as she was now able to afford the necessary appliances that were necessary to conduct her business on a larger scale. Her sisters, brother and uncle also benefitted from the business expansion and held part time positions.
The business provides catering services to households for lunch and dinner parties, large scaled events such as weddings, as well as daily lunches to offices and corporations. Currently, Rabia is able to provide catering to an average of 8 private clients per month. The business allows her to accumulate a profit of approximately 35,000 rupees each month. She started the business 7 years ago and ever since her business expanded owing to the quality of her food and the competency of her service. She cites the instrumental role Kashf training programs played in furthering her business and teaching her the skills and confidence she needed to conduct her business.
“I run a business which thrives on excellence and quality. I always tell people that quality is the most crucial aspect of any item you produce” says Rabia.
The Fruit of Success : Nazish from Karachi
“A dozen for hundred, a dozen for hundred”, shouts a street vendor in the over-crowded Baldia market in Karachi. Scores of men, women, and little children wearing similar Sindhi caps throng around the fruit vendors, buying oranges, apples, and furiously negotiating prices with stall owners. Amongst the crowd, a woman energetically packs oranges in plastic bags, working her way through a long line of customers. She looks happy, while continuously chatting with them, giving concessions to those she knows well, and quickly selling all the oranges she has brought to the market that day.
If anyone had seen Nazish a few years ago, they would not have recognized her as the woman packing oranges at the fruit stall. Even though Nazish had grown up in Karachi, she had not really set foot into such a market till she had been twenty four. At 24, tragedy had struck her household- her father passed away from a heart attack. The incident left her family in despair, and her mother, a seamstress who had been working hard for decades to make ends meet, finally put her sewing machine to rest, claiming she had neither the willpower, nor the strength, to work.
Nazish tried to help out by continuing in her mother’s footsteps, but realized she did not have the talent for stitching. “I was hopeless at it. The only thing I was good at was convincing people to get their clothes stitched from me, but once I realized I couldn’t do it, I knew I couldn’t let my powers of persuasion go to waste. I had to start something of my own, even though at that point I didn’t have the resources to do so.”
Nazish had heard of Kashf Foundation through her sister-in-law who had taken a loan from Kashf Foundation a few years back. After her father’s death, a well-wishing cousin had suggested that they should put up a fruit stall together. Seizing the opportunity, Nazish applied for a loan from Kashf Foundation - once she had received the loan, Nazish began buying fruit from the Sunday Market, to sell at the stall. It was while she started purchasing fruit for the stall that she realized she had a talent for bargaining, for interacting with people, and for convincing them to sell to her at the price she wanted. The following day she convinced her cousin to let her run the fruit stall alone. She sold the entire cart within two hours, a feat her cousin accomplished after a full day of labor.
“I would have men tease me in the beginning, stated Nazish, “asking me to go home and do what other women did. I told them I wasn’t married, that my brother had no skill to match my own, and that nobody had the right to tell me what to do or not to do. These men are now my customers, and if I am not there, they do not buy fruit that day”.
Her association with Kashf Foundation continues till this day, and Nazish is hopeful that within a year, she will be able to buy a fruit shop of her own. She has also participated in Kashf Foundation’s Financial Literacy Program. This has helped her run her business better, make it profitable, and she now employs the various marketing and promotion strategies she has learnt during the program to increase her sales, and make a loyal client base. “I never thought I could be good at being a business woman. Kashf has taught me that nothing is impossible and that one must believe in ones potential”, states Nazish. “I want my story to be a lesson to my family, and to my friends, that everyone is capable of changing their own life and that once they do, the fruit of success is the sweetest of all”.
The Shop to Freedom: Rehana from Lahore
Rehana hands a little boy a box of sweets, when he nervously asks her much he has to pay, Rehana tells him to quickly run home and share the sweets with his younger sister. Rehana smiles; she clearly remembers when she opened her convenience store four years earlier. She only had a few items stocked on her store shelves, and she would count every single penny she made. Giving an entire box of sweets for free seemed impossible to do at that time.
Rehana was eighteen when she got married. She was happy that day. She couldn’t remember the last time she felt so independent. She would finally begin a life which was not regulated by her over-bearing father. Lahore was not what Rehana had expected though. It was noisy, and the neighborhood women would make fun of her clothes and the way she spoke. Her husband, a commercial truck driver, seldom came home, and whatever money he made, would be spent on his friends and late nights of gambling and drinking.
When Rehana couldn’t pay the electricity bill the following month, she knew that it was time to muster the courage to take charge of her own life. With some money she had saved up from her wedding, Rehana rented a tiny shop in her local market. As she stood there a week later, her shelves empty but for a few boxes of soap and some bags of lentils, one of her customers told her about Kashf Foundation’s loan program.
Rehana used her first loan to stock up her store, and happily spent her first few months increasing her sales, and making friends with her frequent customers. She slowly began paying off her bills, one by one.
When Rehana’s father discovered she was operating a convenience store in a busy market place, that too all by herself, he immediately sent word to her husband to put her in place. A woman’s place was in the house he stated, not amongst men behind the counter of a corner shop. Rehana recalls that day, much to her own surprise she had mustered the courage to stand up to both her father and her husband and fight for her right to earn a decent living. She told them that she had taken control of her life with the help of Kashf Foundation, and that Kashf’s Business Development Officers had more faith in her than her own family, and that her family could not coerce her to give up her hard work and move back into a home where her there wasn’t even enough money to pay the bills. Her father stopped talking to her that day, but Rehana remained steadfast in her resolve to take charge of her life.
Four years from that day, Rehana’s relationship with Kashf continues, and her father has finally realized that Rehana’s place is behind her convenience store counter. She continues to pay all her bills on time, her husband, though still hardly home, has learnt to respect her, and let her make her own decisions. After asking her how her life has changed after she partnered with Kashf all those years ago, she replies,
“Kashf taught me the most valuable lesson; you have to fight to change your life, and, being a Pakistani woman, the struggle is harder. Kashf believes in that inherent power which a woman possesses. I am certainly a woman who controls her own life, runs her own household, and makes her own decisions.”
The bird that flew – Ghulam Ayesha from Multan
Multan’s sweltering summer heat had left the usually bustling alley ways of the inner city empty and silent. A middle aged woman stands proudly in her small house, holding her own daughter’s newly born daughter. “A daughter is Allah’s greatest blessing”, she says. Ayesha’s house is quaint, but beautifully adorned walls and her own radiant smile are enough to put anyone at ease. Ayesha’s story begins twenty odd years ago when she moved with her husband to Multan. Soon after getting married, Ayesha gave birth to a beautiful little boy, but her happiness was short-lived. The baby contracted typhoid after his 1st birthday, and due to lack of treatment and funds, succumbed to his illness within a few months.
The cost incurred on their son’s treatment left Ayesha penniless, and in an attempt to take her mind off her grief and to try and make ends meet, Ayesha began helping her husband with his ornaments business. Her husband, Talib, worked in a local factory and used tree bark and wheat sticks to make decoration pieces. She began experimenting with different materials, and one day, made a beautiful bird on a shard of glass. Her husband, astounded at his wife’s hidden potential and talent, spoke to a friend of his who told him about Kashf Foundation and the work they do with home-based women entrepreneurs.
Ayesha’s first loan from Kashf Foundation was used to buy raw material for her paintings. She recalls her first visit to the marketplace. “I was so scared. I had never interacted with men before. I didn’t even know what to say. By my third visit, I knew everyone, and had even started haggling on prices. I built a confidence which I never had before.”
Ayesha soon began to sell her ornaments in the local bazaar, and hired girls from her neighborhood to help her with her increasing workload. With the money she gives them, the girls have promised to save up for college. Ayesha only studied till grade 5 herself; her father forbade her from going to school and told her a woman’s place was in her home, taking care of her family. “I have managed to take care of my family though”, Ayesha says. I provide for them financially, I put food on the table, and I have managed to buy the house we live in now. I couldn’t have been so brave, or even had this confidence in myself if Kashf hadn’t empowered me financially and helped me along the way.”
Ayesha has rented out a small shop in her local market, and 6 years after taking her initial loan from Kashf, she has inspired many other women in her community to take charge of their lives and change it, without relying on anybody else. Her neighbor, Saadia, who opened a parlor in her home after taking a loan from Kashf Foundation, earns enough to send all four of her children to school.
Ayesha claims, “There are many stories of courage and hard-work. Women like Saadia and myself, can break away from the vicious cycle of poverty only through hard work and continuous effort. We need to be the change which we wish to see in our lives.” Ayesha’s little bird paintings can be seen hung up on the walls of nearly all the houses in her community. They look hopeful, ready to fly off to chase their dreams, much like Ayesha and Saadia.
Transcending Societal Constraints: Shumaila from Haripur
Shumaila often thought of supplementing her household income through setting up a small business but was dissuaded by everyone, especially her husband and father. As her children grew older, their household finances became less adequate – not being able to provide for the growing needs of her three children, Shumaila was stuck between conforming to expectations and providing a better life for her children. For her children’s sake, Shumaila was ready to take on the world.
Shumaila set up a small stitching business a few years ago, a simple decision to provide for a better future resulted in backlash from her family, especially her husband who accused her of being too bold. Seeing his wife earn money made him so insecure that to prove his ‘manliness’ he remarried and left Shumaila and her three toddlers to their own devices. Half-heartedly, Shumaila’s parents took her back all the while accusing her of bringing shame on the entire family.
Set back by her personal life, Shumaila realized that the only way of proving herself worthy is to work hard day and night and make the boutique successful. To make a meaningful impact, Shumaila was in need of capital injection to expand her business. Access to credit for women is limited in Haripur and while she had tried to secure some capital when she set up her business it had been in vain as the process seemed too long-drawn and the terms too complicated. Someone pointed her in Kashf Foundation’s direction which had recently opened up branches in Haripur. Shumaila approached the Kashf branch with a sense of trepidation but she was pleasantly surprised by the response.
While her family was against it, Shumaila persevered and through motivation and support from Kashf Foundation, she was able to gain access to Rs 25, 000 from Kashf Foundation with ease through a simple process. Even though, her loan tenure has only started, Shumaila has already begun to see the benefits of the loan: she is not only able to earn enough to provide for her children but also manages to give a small sum of money to her father every month. Shumaila is a motivated and committed entrepreneur and is driven to prove herself as a successful business woman. “Majority of my competitors are males, they underestimate my capabilities and taunt me to be a source of dishonor to my family but when I look at my children sleeping peacefully and my father feeling content I forget about this society and all its constraints’
Beating All Odds: Nasreen from Matli
There are several factors that impede the development of women in Sindh where they are discriminated against in almost all walks of life. Despite these challenges, Nasreen Saleem living in Matli; an administrative subdivision of district Badin has managed to provide food, shelter and hope for her husband and their five young children.
Working as a daily wager Nasreen’s husband was frustrated with low wages, erratic work schedules and delays in payments. There were days when he had no work and the children slept without a meal – the pressure got so much that Nasreen and her husband were always fighting and had almost reached the brink of a divorce. Wandering aimlessly on the streets of Matli, Nasreen’s husband overheard a conversation between a neighbor and Kashf Foundation’s Branch Manager. He overheard that Kashf had set up operations in the area in order to create opportunities for females to contribute to household income and couldn’t help probing into the matter.
A few weeks later Nasreen borrowed a small sum of money from Kashf and used it to purchase readymade women’s apparel. Her husband spread the word in the neighborhood about his wife’s nascent business and within a few days women from surrounding communities arrived to purchase clothes from her, for which many had to haggle since there were more buyers than the initial stock Nasreen had in her small store. As a result of this outright success, Nasreen soon became a famous retailer in the community.
“Never in my life have I been able to save above Rs2000 in a month, today my average household saving amounts to Rs18, 000 every month. My children are going to school and my husband looks at me with pride” says Nasreen while talking to a Kashf’s staff member.
Although life has changed for the family, Nasreen still worries about her children’s future. Sending them to an English medium school is now her biggest challenge. Going against the odds has now become second nature to Nasreen. Nasreen wants to expand her business by starting production of her own designs, which she would then distribute to other sales agents (women from adjoining areas) to sell on her behalf. “My plan is to include women from my community in my business model rather than paying all the money to mean shop keepers” says Nasreen. She wishes to employ female tailors and embroiderers to prepare readymade cloths which will then be sold to retailers in the market place.
Quality Education for Low-Income Students - Daisy from Lahore
Daisy Sant Ram started her teaching career in 1961 at Saint Anthony’s School in Lahore. She remembers that experience fondly, even though the school did not allow her to use her own teaching methodologies which resulted in numerous rifts with the school administration. Daisy did not have enough money to start her own school, so she spent decades saving up, penny by penny to open her own school. Her dream was to build up a place of academic excellence where she could innovate with teaching styles and methods to build a cadre of socially responsible and properly educated students.
Daisy started off with 20 students, 20 chairs and 10 tables. For years Daisy has served children belonging to low-income households and she now has more than a 100 children studying at her school, all the way up to high school. When Kashf Foundation’s Education team first met Daisy, she was teaching children how to pronounce the letters of the English alphabet.
In her first meeting with Kashf, Daisy told the team that there has been a drastic decrease in student enrollment at her school. “So many schools have opened up in this area, and parents do not care what quality of education is provided, they only care about fees”. She also told the team about the increasing stress of retaining good teachers and finding teachers that could really connect with the students. Faced with the pressures of reducing fees juxtaposed with retaining students and attracting good teachers, Daisy has been finding it difficult to stay afloat.
When Daisy heard about the Kashf Education Finance project, she was thrilled and claimed that God had heard her prayers. Daisy accessed a loan of Rs. 50,000 with which she brought new desks and chairs and renovated her school floors which had broken due to years of heavy monsoon flooding. As part of the loan conditions, Daisy’s entire school staff was mandated to undertake teacher trainings, and capacity building and leadership trainings. Moreover, all participating schools also have to include a financial education training for students in their curriculum, the training of trainers for which is conducted with all the teachers. Daisy saw these conditions as a tremendous opportunity to overhaul the school’s systems and teaching quality. Kashf Foundation has also helped Dasiy create a School Development Plan which outlines steps on how to improve the overall infrastructure of the school, increase school enrollment, and thus make the business more profitable and popular within the community.
“Kashf Foundation has not only helped me get back on my feet, but has given me the opportunity to provide better education to deserving children who cannot afford to go to expensive private schools”, Ms. Dasiy states when asked whether she would borrow from Kashf in the future. “I wish to retain my relationship with Kashf as long as I can; they are responsible for reaching out to me and helping me change lives and create better futures for children in my community.”