Can you imagine living in a household where you cannot dream of a better life for your children? Absolute poverty is a term to describe people living on less than 1.5 dollars per day. In descriptive terms it means living in a home that is waiting to deteriorate in the next flood, not having access to tap water and not being able to send your children to school when you can afford the uniforms and books. This is a fact of life for many households in Pakistan. The available household income is barely enough to put food on the table. 
With limited income for food, children suffer from malnutrition. In many cases malnutrition leads to stunting.  This malady is often for life as it is linked to poor productivity and increased susceptibility to disease in adulthood. The women in these households suffer the most – as they often compromise their meals and are even neglected by the male income earning members of the family.
If not assisted these households would continue to live in the same way for generations to come. When they are assisted though, the changes which occur in their quality of life are miraculous. The KASHF Microfinance Bank has been providing loans as support to women since 1996. It is helped by partner organizations, such as Coca-Cola Pakistan, which believe in the pivotal role women can play in bringing about a socioeconomic change in the households.
Farzana and Samina are two women who have borrowed loans from the Kashf Foundation.  Farzana lives with her husband with four children. Prior to acquiring the loan, her husband was out of work and as a household they faced a lot of hardship. Farzana borrowed 20,000 rupees from the Kashf Foundation to start an embroidery business. 
Samina’s story is a little different.  Prior to her venture she was dependent on her brothers and sisters as she was unmarried and her parents had passed away. She found it difficult to live that way. She initially taught in a school but the salary was not enough to support herself. She then turned to stitching and artificial jewelry making but found herself in debt. With the loan from Kashf foundation, she was able to establish her business to pay off her debts and have a comfortable income.
When the loans are disbursed, the women are given basic financial training on how to save, their earnings prior to loan disbursement and are mentored after the provision of the loan. The benefit of this particular loan format is that it presents opportunities for financial as well as social growth. Training is given to women in groups. This is very important to females who spend much of their time busy in the households and often have little time to socialize. In many cases, a lot of these women would have faced some resistance at home. This format helps build friendships and increase confidence in the step they are taking to financial independence as groups.
The loans disbursed are of two types: “Tier 1” assists in setting up first time small home based businesses based on the needs of the local rural communities whilst “Tier 2” assists returning entrepreneurs  by training as well as imparting further loans.  Typical businesses include rearing livestock for milk, establishing a grocery store, embroidery or tailoring business and even running a vehicle repair shop! In 2013, the majority of the loans disbursed in partnership with the Coca-Cola Foundation were used to buy livestock or sewing machines for tailoring. In the year 2013-2014, a total of 311 women were assisted from the grant given by the Coca-Cola Foundation. 99% of the participants showed an average increase in income of more than 5000 rupees.
With greater financial stability, households are able to attend to providing basic needs of their households. A lot of the clients return to expand their business. This shows the increase in the level of confidence of these women. The ‘Tier 2’ clients are returning entrepreneurs who are interested in expanding their business. Trainings on business expansion are imparted prior to the disbursement of loans. 70% of the women which have acquired these loans have hired employees- bringing income into other families and much required job creation!
Both Samina and Farzana hope to acquire a ‘Tier 2’ loan once they have paid back the loan. The women have found it easy to pay back the loan in installments and look forward to expand. Currently Farzana earns 15000 rupees per month. She keeps 5000 for her household use and puts the rest back into her business. She hopes to expand her business further with the next loan. Samina has similar aspirations.
The concept of microfinance has helped both these women gain respect in their households. “I think a woman is strong on her intentions,” Samina says, “and if she decides to do something she can do it very well.” Both women have shown how they can achieve their aspirations if they get just a little guidance and assistance. The Kashf Foundation’s partnership with Coca-Cola is just one example of how entrepreneurship can improve lives.