Kashf also began offering life insurance and health insurance, as well as home improvement loans. Roshaneh wanted to require that legal title to the home be transferred to the wife before the home improvement loan could be extended, but transfer of title in Pakistan turned out to require 855 steps and five years. So instead, Kashf requires the husband to sign a document pledging that he will never evict his wife, even if he divorces her.

Roshaneh was selected to be one of the early Ashoka Fellows, working with Bill Drayton. That put her in touch with other social entrepreneurs around the globe, building connections and exchanging ideas. By 2009, Kashf had 1,000 employees and 300,000 clients and was aiming for 1 million clients by 2010. Roshaneh cultivated a cadre of skilled female managers, with management training programs and sessions drilling staff in the "seven habits of highly effective people."

Kashf also started a bank, so that it could accept deposits as well as make loans. People usually think of microfinance in terms of loans, but savings are perhaps even more important. Not all poor people need loans, but all should have access to savings accounts. And if the family savings are in the woman's name, and thus in her control, that gives her more heft in family decision-making.

An in-house evaluation concluded that by the time the borrowers have taken their third loan, 34 percent have moved above the poverty line in Pakistan. A poll found that 54 percent said their husbands respected them more, and 40 percent said they had fewer fights with their husbands over money. As for the sustainability of the underlying business model, Roshaneh says crisply: "Our return on equity is seven and a half percent."

Excerpted from Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Copyright © 2009 by Nicholas D. Kristof. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


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