Pakistani businesswoman Sadaffe Abid makes it her mission to empower women
Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Sadaffe Abid is one of Pakistan’s most successful businesswomen. She was the chief executive of the Kashf Foundation, one of the largest microfinance institutions in Pakistan, growing it from a pilot project in two rooms, to serve 300,000 female clients with micro-loans. Ms Abid also co-founded the Buksh Foundation, a Pakistani start-up that enhances financial access to micro entrepreneurs. After 13 years in micro-financing, Ms Abid now splits her time between Dubai and Pakistan, conducting leadership training focused on developing high-potential female professionals and entrepreneurs and emerging talent.
What was your inspiration for wanting to help Pakistani women?
I’m from an educated family of men and women, and my father worked in the military so we had a tight budget. But I was able to get a scholarship to study at Mount Holyoke College in the US. That opened my mind to possibilities – I met people from different cultures, developed a love for learning and growth and wanted to go back to Pakistan to make a difference. I started out in development, doing two years of consulting work for the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. I went to slums and rural communities in Pakistan, which gave me a great appreciation of how the majority of Pakistan live. Their daily challenges were very different from mine. Over 5.1 million primary school-aged children are out of school in Pakistan – the third highest number of out-of-school children in the world – and 63 per cent of them are girls. However it’s a society that’s changing, and female role models are emerging.
What does the Kashf Foundation do for women?
I joined Kashf in 1997 when it was a two-room incubator in Lahore. At the beginning we didn’t know much about micro-financing, we were really working like a lab. I worked with the founders to turn Kashf into an organisation that employs 2000 staff and has disbursed US$200 million. Kashf micro-finances small businesses for women who are earning $2 to $3 a day. We help them open grocery stores, make bangles or shoes and buy goats by giving women micro-loans starting at US$100, and going up to $1,000.