Microcredit: Financial RevolutionSunday, March 14, 2010 By
Oprah recetly posted and article on her website about a woman in Pakistan who was able to overcome harsh struggles of abuse and debt. Saima Muhammad was a desperatly poor woman who would break into tears every evening. Saima had an unemployed deadbeat husband who was frustrated and angry, and he coped with that by beating Saima each afternoon. The house that they lived in, in the outskirts of Lahore, Pakistan, was falling apart, but they had no money for repairs. Saima sent her young daughter to live with her aunt because there was not enough food. Saima said, "My sister-in-law made fun of me, saying, 'You can't even feed your child,' " Saima recalled. "My husband beat me up. ... I had an awful life." Saima would take the bus to the market in Lahore, an hour away, to try to sell things for money to buy food, but that only caused her neighbors to make fun of her saying she was a loose woman because she would travel by herself. Saima's husband accumulated a debt of more than $3,000, and it seemed that this debt would hang over the family forever. When Saima gave birth to her second child, and it turned out to be another girl, her Mother-in-law made things worse for her. "She's not going to have a son," her Mother-in-law told Saima's husband, in front of her. "So you should marry again. Take a second wife." Saima was crushed and ran off crying. Another wife might well devastate the family finances and leave even less money to feed and educate the children. For days Saima walked around in a daze, her eyes red, and the slightest incident would send her collapsing into hysterical tears. She felt her whole life slipping away. Finally, Saima took charge and joined a women's solidarity group affiliated with a Pakistani microfinance organization called Kashf Foundation. She took out a $65 loan and used the money to buy beads and cloth, which she transformed into beautiful embroidery to sell in the markets of Lahore. She used the profit to buy more beads and cloth, and soon she had an embroidery business and was earning a solid income. She was the only one in her household to do so. Saima brought her eldest daughter back from the aunt and began paying off her husband's debt.