Zahida Khatoon is 49 years old, a divorcee and mother of two. She runs a small grocery store in Tench, Rawalpindi.

Zahida remembers clearly the days when she could not sufficiently feed her family nor send her children to school.

She said:

One day I got a call from my in-laws on my neighbour’s landline, the connection was very weak and I could barely hear the voices at the other end. The line got disconnected and I got really worried that something bad had happened and they had called to give me some bad news. I hurried to my house to get some money and go to a local phone booth and call my in laws. I searched my purse and all the piggy banks in the house, but I couldn’t even find Rs. 20. I rushed to my neighbours and asked them to lend me Rs. 20, but they simply refused. That’s when I broke down and realized that I had no money and no control over my life.

“That’s when I decided to take the steering wheel of my life in my own hands! I started a small grocery store by buying 2-3 items from the money that my husband would give me for household expenses. Eventually my business grew, my kids started attending good schools.”

Zahida’s business grew so big that she built her own house with the profits that made from sales.

“Then my life came to a halt when my husband divorced me after 29 years of marriage. The kids chose their father over me, but I never left my children. I know, one day they will remember their mother!”

After Zahida’s divorce she was back at zero and had to restart her life from scratch. She moved inwith her father and brothers and told them that she wanted to start her shop again. They said: “How you can start your shop here?! This neighbourhood is not suitable.”

Her family discouraged her from working, “You have a roof above your head and you get food, why do you need to work?” I said, “I don’t just want food, I want to work!”

Islamic Relief Pakistan provided Zahida with several microloans, one after the other. Even right now she is using our loan facility for the third time.

The idea behind microfinance is to empower borrowers by helping them build a business which can create income and grow. Poor people, especially in urban slums and rural areas often do not have access to banking services. Microfinance provides them with a way to build up their savings.

“I have eggs, milk, tea, sugar, pulses, rice, cold drinks, disposable glasses, and any other thing that you can think of! “ says Zahida proudly.

“Even if a servant makes 1000 USD per month, they will always remain a servant. I’m an entrepreneur, I run my own business! A servant has to seek permission from others to do whatever they want, but me, I’m my own my own boss!”

Zahida has named her store after her son and dreams of expanding her business, she says, “I want to turn this small set up into a fully-fledged departmental store and I want to support my children.”

Our Microfinance facilities are there to assist some of the most underprivileged and vulnerable entrepreneurs in Pakistan.

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