Inspired by the success of the Grameen Bank, Kashf Foundation began in 1996 as an action research program focused on understanding key factors affecting the demand for microfinance services among poor women.
Kashf Foundation has achieved many firsts: it was the first specialized microfinance institution in Pakistan, the first microfinance institution targeting only women from low-income communities, and the first to charge a sustainable price for its services.
Since its inception, Kashf Foundation has continued to innovate – in 1999 it introduced the first pro-women consumption loan in the sector; in 2001 it was the first microfinance institution to offer microinsurance services by collaborating with one of Pakistan’s oldest insurance companies.
In 2003, it was the first microfinance institution to become financially sustainable, and in 2004 it was the first to obtain an investable credit rating.
Today, Kashf Foundation has a nationwide network of 185 branches, and has disbursed more than US$372 million. More than half the businesses it supports are led by women.
In Pakistan, the face of poverty is female, with one-third of homes at or below the poverty line.
Kashf is the first wealth management company for women from low income households.
Roshaneh Zafar and Kashf have catalyzed a transformation where men and women are equal partners in development,
Kashf clients are able to spend 13 percent more on education and 22 percent more on health care.
Access to financial services is a first step that eventually brings women and their families out of poverty.
Program and Business Growth
Kashf expands its program to more and more communities and strengthens its offerings through links with national and international organizations.
Each new branch is self sustaining from income earned from its loan portfolio.
Through a chance meeting with Muhammad Yunus, Roshaneh Zafar was inspired to quit her job and establish the Kashf Foundation in 1999. Believing that the Grameen model could help empower women both economically and socially, Roshaneh ignored warnings that a microfinance program 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 centers. Kashf was the first specialized microfinance program 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. Beginning with 15 clients in 1996, Kashf was serving 319,000 active clients through 152 branches at the time of the Award, with an outstanding portfolio of $47 million and a recovery rate of 99 percent. More than a third of its clients moved out of poverty within three years.