By Anya Raza | KF18 | Pakistan
Secretly, every fellow really just wants to be in the field.
The thrill-seekers in us wish to go to obscure far-flung places, desperate and desolate, yet magical in our minds.
In my case, not even our car breaking down could hold me back. So off we went, three women on a dusty road. Sometimes we need life to slow down around us, to match the pace of our surroundings. As we moseyed our way through the village, we passed a local mela (fair), complete with food stands, game stalls and a theme park.
The sight of a Ferris wheel halted my breath – my daytime reverie saw me floating above this tiny village less than two hours from Lahore, thrust into a utopian state of oblivion. Upon close inspection I realised there was no one in it, and I was told tearfully that these operate on generators, therefore the chances of dangling above my dreams were high. Ah, it’s just as well.
Drifting from stall to stall I was once more momentarily distracted by the giant stacks of jalebis (deep fried sugar syrup), their treacly character gluing to my mind, reminding my taste buds of all that is hot and delightfully (st)icky in the summer.
With the midday sun beating down on us, and the market next to empty, I was reminded of the nocturnal nature of Pakistanis during the summer.
Here we arrived to Fareeda’s home, an Asasah borrower since 2007. She told us how her family had gone through several troughs in life, after the death of her only son. She had come to know of Asasah through a friend with whom she used to make mosquito nets by hand.
With the help of several loans through Kiva, Fareeda and her husband managed to expand their business, adding bags, clothes, pillow cases and sleeping bags to their growing list of products.
“In our family it is not customary for women to work. I have become an example in our community – people now come to me for advice!” she explained.
Fareeda’s proud husband stood watching, and when I asked him what he thought of her endeavours, he responded with a metaphor, “a motorcycle needs two wheels, if one gets punctured, the whole vehicle will be immobile!”
Fareeda now employs 15 women, her children go to school and she lives in a brick home with running water, electricity, a toilet and several rooms.
This is the ideal we strive towards.
This is the dignity we wish to provide.
This is microfinance at its finest.
I asked Fareeda what she had learned from her success, “just because good days come doesn’t mean you should forget the bad.”
She further went on to add,“I recommend for everyone to stand on their own two feet. My success doesn’t stand still with me, I must pay it forward in order to keep growing.”
As we said goodbye, her level of emancipation was clear when she brought out her own camcorder to film us.
With our car still very much inoperable, Fareeda’s husband took us on his rickshaw to the nearest intersection, where we jumped onto another rickshaw. Despite our lack of speed, dust caught in my eye and resulted in an inadvertent pit-stop, where wise words were dispensed to me by our rickshaw driver, “this may sound a bit technical to you, but should you find your right eye to be obstructed, blow really hard through your left nostril. I guarantee you it will work.”
I solemnly promised I would, and exited the rickshaw to be warmly greeted by the next Kiva borrower, Zara Jameel, and her four children.
Zara recently took a loan from Kiva to expand her business as a seamstress. As her four children clamoured for her attention, Zara patiently taught me a three stitch, and showed me some of her finest pieces of work. She explained how the trade had passed down by her mother, and noted she had already began teaching her oldest daughter too.
Her husband works at a charpoy (traditional rope bed) store, so her income from sewing and embroidering clothes is a welcome addition to the household.
At 23, this confident, comfortable young woman said she didn’t want any more children. Her Kiva loan would be used to purchase a sewing machine, after which she would work out her strategy one step at a time. With her youngest Arsalan looking up at her, his eyes capturing the hope she conveyed, I wished her nothing but the best.
My first field trip with Asasah left me feeling energized, excited and hopeful. Next week I enter the belly of the beast, South Punjab, and its roaring successful borrowers. If it’s anything like this week, I’ll need to do a blog series!
Anya Raza is a Kiva Fellow stationed at Asasah, a microfinance institution in Pakistan. You can lend to one of Asasah’s borrowers here, join the Pakistan lending team, and keep reading Anya’s posts to learn more about the organization and the many borrowers it helps fund. @anya_raza