Roshaneh Zafar is helping to fight extremism and create a sustainable model that will discourage recruitment to terrorist organizations by giving people hope that they can live a prosperous and stable way of life.
This American-educated banker is focusing her efforts on micro-financing. She has found a way to empower some of Pakistan’s poorest women by giving them the tools and educational opportunities to create businesses and income for themselves and their families.
“Charity is limited, but capitalism isn’t,” Roshaneh told Nicholas D. Kristof in an interview for the New York Times. “If you want to change the world, you need market-based solutions.”
Ms. Zafar grew up in Lahore and took the opportunity to study business at the Wharton School and economics at Yale. She worked for a while at the World Bank before returning to Pakistan in 1996 to start the Kashf Foundation.
Below is an interview with Ms. Zafar. Make yourself a cup of coffee, then sit down and spend 7 minutes with this inspiring woman.
Despite many setbacks, Kashf can now boast 152 branches throughout Pakistan and has loaned over $200 million to more than 300,000 families. Ever thinking ahead, Ms. Zafar is now studying how to leverage this model to encourage the poor to build up savings and accrue assets.
Ms. Zafar is not only helping people start businesses, create jobs and support education that will enable people to break out of the vicious spiral of poverty, but will offer an option to living that is neither violent, nor exploitative.
She deserves a Nobel Prize, in economics and in peace. Micro-financing is a tool to ending the very conditions that create terrorism and extremism. Every Western and stable country has an interest in incorporating her model into their foreign policy.
Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com