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.”