Learn how the World Bank Group is helping countries with COVID-19 (coronavirus). Find Out

FEATURE STORY

Making Life Beautiful

September 27, 2012

Image

Sufia Aslam works in the two-seat beauty shop she started with the help of a loan from the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund.

Muzammil Pasha/World Bank

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A loan from the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund helped a 23-year-old woman start her own business, a beauty parlor.
  • Nurturing this sort of confidence, financial independence, and empowerment of women is a key goal of PPAF’s microcredit program.
  • PPAF has issued 5.4 million microcredit loans, worth an average of about $150, benefiting more than 34.2 million people.

GUJAR KHAN, RAWALPINDI DISTRICT, PUNJAB PROVINCE, Pakistan – Sufia Aslam, 23, pushes past barriers in her small town, refusing to let socio-cultural restraints limit her opportunities.

“I think life should be beautiful, and to me that means freedom to reach your potential,” she says.

To that end, Aslam still struggles, but today runs her own beauty parlor. She is also studying for a master’s degree in business and volunteering at a nearby village to impart her financial know-how to other women.

She credits much of this success to the small loan that she first received through the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF), supported by World Bank financing.

“I have so many dreams,” Aslam says in perfect English, another rare ability in her community. “I want to go abroad, see and do everything. I can work very hard. I only need opportunities.”

Aslam’s desire to get ahead pours out with her every breath. But her drive for independence is something that many in her community, including her parents, still question, she says.

“They think I should be more like my sister, staying at home, having a family, always cooking and doing chores,” she shrugs. “But that is not who I am.”


" I have so many dreams. I want to go abroad, see and do everything. I can work very hard. I only need opportunities. "

Sufia Aslam

Small business owner

Nurturing confidence, independence, and empowerment

Aslam credits her aunt Rifat Parveen, who encouraged her to apply for a PPAF loan and set up her own business. “The loan helped me, and that is what I want to share with others now. I understand how important this opportunity can be.”

Nurturing this sort of confidence, financial independence, and empowerment of women is a key goal of PPAF’s microcredit program. In many of Pakistan’s traditional communities, women are generally excluded from the public sphere and development process.

So far PPAF has issued 5.4 million microcredit loans, worth an average of about $150, benefiting directly or indirectly more than 34.2 million people, both men and women, as they invest in a range of small businesses like Aslam’s beauty parlor.

Four years ago, Aslam and her aunt got three loans worth about 20,000 rupees each ($365) to start their businesses. First, Parveen opened a ladies’ dress shop on the ground floor of their home. Then, Aslam built her tiny, two-seat beauty parlor upstairs.

Eventually, both hired staff, and together, now they earn about 50,000 rupees ($550) per month. Parveen’s three children attend school. Aslam and Parveen have done extensive renovation on their home. They also proudly display a certificate showing they are among Pakistan’s few taxpayers.

Parveen says the PPAF’s microcredit program proved to be a lifesaver for her, as its repayment rates are reasonable. “Once I borrowed about 125,000 rupees ($1,300) from a local moneylender here, and I had to pay back 237,000 rupees ($2,500). That’s almost double the amount I borrowed!” Parveen says.

It is these lessons that Parveen and Aslam plan to pass on now to the women of Aheer village. They have offered to help organize about 22 women there who are eager to participate in PPAF’s microcredit program with the assistance from its partner organization, the National Rural Support Programme.

With a rush of enthusiasm, the village women recently told Aslam that they also want to set up a beauty parlor, a small stitching business, and learn computer skills. “I can see that they, too, have big plans,” says Aslam. “That is good.”


Api
Api