Islamabad, Pakistan, 27 November 2007 – The First MicroFinance Bank’s client, Ms. Sifat Gul from Gharam Chashma, Chitral won the “Best National Micro-Entrepreneur Award Female” at the recently organised Citi-PPAF Micro-entrepreneurship Awards 2007 ceremony in Islamabad. Dr. Ishrat Hussain, former Governor State Bank of Pakistan was the Chief Guest for the occasion where Sifat Gul was awarded a cash prize of Rs. 115,000. The objective of the Citi-PPAF Micro-entrepreneurship Awards Programme 2007 is to illustrate and promote the effective role that micro-finance plays in poverty alleviation. It recognises the extraordinary contributions that individual micro-entrepreneurs have made to the economic sustainability of their families as well as their communities.
The award winner Sifat Gul, faced with economic problems, began her journey a couple of years ago by approaching The First MicroFinanceBank Ltd (FMFB) for a loan to purchase a sewing machine and become a tailor. However, she was soon able to diversify her small home-run business into a full training institute to harness the sewing and embroidery skills of the young women in her community. Today, she plans to construct a separate building for her training institute and has partnered with other organisations that purchase her products and exhibit them in city centres.
Her association with the Bank not only helped her in increasing her own household income and savings and but also empowered her to play a positive role in mobilizing her community to bring about a social change in their surroundings. Today, not only does she have the basic amenities of life including good quality access to education, housing and health facilities for her entire household but also trains and empowers many young women to earn their livelihoods. Coming from the remote, mountainous area of Chitral, hers is a story of true woman empowerment as she stepped up to earn a livelihood and was later elected as a female councillor revolutionizing the surroundings by playing a pivotal role in mobilising common interest projects such as Community Based Schools, village pipeline repair and road repair projects. Initially faced by strong resistance and opposition from her family to start a business, Sifat Gul with the support of The First MicroFinanceBank and her sheer commitment, confidence and hard work succeeded in bringing a positive change in her household and continues to be a social change agent.
The First MicroFinanceBank, a part of the Aga Khan Development Network, has played an instrumental role in reaching out to the poor segments of society by enabling individuals to strengthen their entrepreneurial base and build capital for a sound and secure future. The Bank strives to alleviate poverty through sustainable economic development by offering credit, savings and life insurance services and an efficient and low cost funds transfer service to its target populations. With over 70 fully automated branches all over Pakistan, FMFB has disbursed 170,000 loans and has achieved 64% rural outreach in a short span of six years.
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