In a few words, it may be important to highlight the meaning of the word Kashf”. Kashf is a multifaceted word – literally translated it means miracle or revelation. In other words, Kashf is a process of self-discovery – a conscious realization of one’s inner capacity – where the hidden potential of women can be brought out and accentuated. The mission of the organization is to alleviate poverty by providing quality and cost effective micro finance services to low income households especially women in order to enhance their economic role and decision-making capacity Keeping the above mission in view by 2008 Kashf will target 250,000 clients, through a network of 100 branches providing microfinance services to women at their door steps. At the same time the programme will continue to impact on the social empowerment of women through its gender and social advocacy approach combined with its focus on building viable and effective centres where women can come together in a women friendly space.
KASHF started from a belief that the economic empowerment of women was a key factor in enabling Pakistan to move beyond its current economic and social standing. Current poverty statistics reveal that of Pakistan’s 140 million people, 32% live at $1 a day while 85% are living at $2 a day, implying that poverty is an endemic issue in the country. Access to credit for the poor is typically limited to local moneylenders who can charge in excess of 350% per annum. There are thousands of stories where poor households facing extreme financial distress, have resorted to borrowing money at such exorbitant rates.
There is a strong feminization of poverty in the world as over 70% of the world’s poor are women. Women face the most hardships in managing household finances. The progress of women in the community in Pakistan is adversely affected by the negative attitude of men, particularly towards women’s access to credit. There is no organization other than Kashf within Pakistan which is providing an exclusive and effective financial service to poor women. Research shows that women’s financial needs are not being adequately addressed by the 27 other organizations currently providing microfinance services in the rural areas. In its ten years of operations Kashf has demonstrated that not only are poor women bankable but an organization exclusively providing microfinance services to poor women can be sustainable. Kashf has always worked with extremely ambitious targets and has been one of the fastest growing and financially self sufficient MFls in Pakistan, thus ensuring that not only was its organization viable in the long run but that it could also be replicated in other settings. It was for this reason that the organization grew from 15,000 clients in June 2002 to 70,000 clients in December 2004, a 367% growth rate in 18 months. Kashf intends to continue with this growth trajectory as mentioned by reaching out to 250,000 female clients by 2008. Today Kashf is the third largest MFI in Pakistan with the clear and focused mission of alleviating poverty by providing quality and cost effective services to women from low income communities.
Kashf predicates its microfinance programme on solidarity lending, which is also reflective of women’s qualitative needs. The entire microfinance strategy is delivered through centres comprising of 25 women, who self select and also nominate a credit committee from amongst themselves which then makes all the necessary lending decisions. The entire process of setting up centres provides community women an opportunity of sharing ideas, making joint decisions and learning about new techniques and opportunities. The centres meet very regularly after every two weeks, and during the meetings a strong sense of solidarity and social cohesion emerges through time. Currently, Kashf has over 2,800 such centres that have become strong conduits for generating social transformation.
Keeping in view Kashf’s poverty lending vision, Kashf’s target group is comprised of women belonging to economically vulnerable households. The profile of Kashf’s households includes those with irregular sources of income, that is, primarily daily wage earners (with expected daily incomes of between Rs 80-150), with a high dependency ratio, which translates into a low per capita income. Generally, the target households have a very low asset base. The target group that Kashf is focusing is well below the official poverty line of the government of Pakistan, which is Rs 5,200 per month per family.