Born into a middle upper class family in Lahore, Roshaneh Zafar is a graduate of the Wharton Business School, University of Pennsylvania, USA and also holds a Masters' degree in Development Economics from Yale University,

Roshaneh Zafar

Professional Achievements

Born into a middle upper class family in Lahore, Roshaneh Zafar is a graduate of the Wharton Business School, University of Pennsylvania, USA and also holds a Masters’ degree in Development Economics from Yale University, USA.

She has diverse skills in financial management, participatory appraisal techniques, gender and other related fields.  She is also involved with other civil society organisations like Sahil (which is working against child sexual abuse), Sungi Development Foundation and the Family Planning Association of Pakistan.

Roshaneh Zafar started out in life to become an investment banker but soon realized that she didn't want to make wealthy people wealthier. She was plagued by the inequity of resources and why so much poverty was borne by women. She tried her hand at development work at the World Bank in the early 1990s, but was disillusioned when she saw that too often large, expensive projects did not affect the plight of poor women.

A chance meeting with Mohammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank, father of microfinance, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, led Roshaneh Zafar to Bangladesh, where she witnessed what she calls the miracle that a small loan can work for a poor woman with an entrepreneurial mind.

After training under Mohammad Yunus for two years, Roshaneh returned to Pakistan and established the Kashf Foundation (Kashf in Urdu means miracle) in 1996, devoted to the economic empowerment of women. Believing that the Grameen model could help empower women both economically and socially, Roshaneh ignored warnings that a microfinance programme focusing on women would not work in Pakistan.

Starting with her own family’s funds and a volunteer workforce of five women, Roshaneh drove her colleagues to distant villages to start microfinance centres. Kashf was the first specialized microfinance programme in Pakistan to specifically target women from low income communities, and evolved to become the first wealth management company for women from low income households. Women improve the economic status of their families by building entrepreneurship and financial management skills, gaining access to business loans, and obtaining micro-insurance services to reduce exposure to financial risk.

34% of the families that borrowed regularly from Kashf for three years have moved above the poverty line. Kashf clients have increased spending on their children's education by 20% and have reduced the number of days per year that their families go hungry from 40 to 10. The women also are getting better health care.

Kashf has expanded its operations to include all of Punjab Province and part of Sindh Province. In the past two decades, Kashf has had phenomenal success in loan repayment, with an overdue rate of only 0.5 percent. Working closely with loan officers, the clients know that they have to make a small payment on a certain date every month.

Roshaneh Zafar is making the Kashf Foundation into an interconnected conglomerate of microfinance-based companies. She established the Kashf Microfinance Bank, a for-profit enterprise, in 2009. In contrast to non-profit microfinance institutions, banks take deposits, allowing them to create a larger lending capacity than non-profit organizations. The Kashf Bank so far has attracted 15,000 depositors, one fourth of whom, are women.

Roshaneh aspires to increase the number of depositors to 1 million and aims for two-thirds of them to be women. In addition to the bank, Roshaneh is laying plans for a Kashf insurance company, a Kashf financial education company and a Kashf business incubator. The business incubator is intended to help micro-borrowers expand to become small businesses that employ others.

Forbes, a U.S. business magazine, ranked the Kashf Foundation 34th on its list of the world's top 50 microfinance institutions in 2007. Talking about low-income women, servicing with small loans, and still profitable to be ranked number 34 by Forbes, shows that microfinance is profitable and can draw in private-sector money and it can have a positive return on investment at the end of the day.