Empowering Women of Pakistan Through Microfinance

Founders of CSC Empowerment and Inclusion Programme (CEIP), Shaista Jan and Nayab Gohar Jan tell Ananke’s Ilsiia Idelbaeva about the organization’s recent microfinance products encouraging women from marginalized groups and the newest “TRANSition” campaign, which supports the most vulnerable social community of transgenders.
(L to R): Shaista Jan and Nayab Gohar Jan.

Tell us about the CSC Empowerment and Inclusion Programme– when was it formed and the reason behind its establishment?

The CSC Empowerment and Inclusion Programme, previously Community Support Concern (CSC), was one of the pioneer organizations to provide microfinance to poor households of Pakistan. Established in 1989, CSC has for the last 29 years, been actively involved in identifying and resolving key social and economic issues faced by the most marginalized groups in society, especially women and youth. In 2000, CSC received seed money from Grameen Trust to start its first microfinance branch in Nishter Town. This paved way for CEIP’s current Microfinance Network with 29 branches in Central and South Punjab (province of Pakistan), offering 12 different microfinance products/projects to its clients catering to different niches within the sector.

In 2015, the microfinance wing of CSC evolved into a separate legal entity, and became CSC Empowerment & Inclusion Program (CEIP). With this, it assumed the responsibility of enhancing financial inclusion in the country. As CSC continues to focus on social inclusion and socio-economic development of marginalized communities, CEIP furthers the agenda of an enabling financial environment for the poor. Both entities maintain an underlying emphasis on women empowerment and development.

How did you get this idea? And what have been some of the most significant challenges?

In 1997, founder of CSC, Shaista Jan travelled to Dhaka, Bangladesh, to attend the International Dialogue Program hosted by Grameen (Bank). At the conference, she learned about the Grameen Model, a credit-lending scheme targeting the economically active poor, who do not have access to conventional banking services. Realizing the need for a similar program back home, Shaista Jan met with Muhammad Yunus, and discussed a partnership, which would allow her to provide microfinance services to the marginalized communities in Pakistan.

At the time of implementation, multiple challenges were faced as micro-finance was a new concept that the masses were unaware of. Hiring of staff with the experience/awareness of micro-finance was one of the key challenges. Another major challenge was to create repayment behavior amongst borrowers, as they perceived the loan was provided to them as funding, that they did not want to repay. Identification of a suitable area to start the program was also a challenge as CSC had to shut down its branch office in Pindi Rajputan (Kot Lakhpat, Lahore – different locations Punjab province) due to repayment issues and involvement of activists. Securing funds was also a challenge as donors required a comprehensive system in place to be able to provide funding. Later on, Management Information System (MIS) was introduced by CSC to manage the internal system and maintenance of clients’ data.

How does it happen, ensuring socio-economic empowerment of women from marginalized communities?

The CEIP has impacted over 1.1 million women positively in 2018 in six districts of South and Central Punjab. We ensure that we not only help them financially, but also provide them financial literacy, skills trainings, business development advisory and market access platforms which can help them sustain their own businesses once they decide to lend from us. Over the past 4 years, CEIP has given out Prime Minister’s Interest Free loan to 23,481 marginalized women in D.G.Khan which has helped them overcome severe poverty and has moved them up on the poverty score card. Another evident example of success is that of one of our Christian clients ‘Ruth Masih’ who is a resident of Youhanabad Lahore and her efforts had been recently recognized by the Punjab Micro-Finance Network, who awarded her with ‘Best Entrepreneurship Award’ on 17thOctober 2017. Ruth began her career as a ‘cook’, which confronted her with several religious, ethnic as well as social prejudices. However, it was through our awareness on how she can expand her business, Ruth managed to network with many unbiased clienteles who purchased her food on the basis of its taste and quality without any religious and hygiene discrimination. It is CEIP’s commitment to ensure that every woman is an inclusive part of the socio-economic spheres in Pakistan and ‘Ruth Masih’ case is a living proof of how empowered a poverty stricken, socially discriminated Christian woman could be made by CEIP. Ruth’s socio-economic conditions have improved tremendously ever since her cooking business has begun to flourish and her case has also become an inspiration for other similar marginalized women to gain courage to work despite many discriminations and to seek CEIP’s assistance.

In 2018, CEIP launched 4 new microfinance products; Taleem Loan, Graduation Loan, Captain Loan, and Micro insurance. How do these products work and what is the repayment discipline?

In 2018, the CEIP launched four new microfinance products; Taleem Loan, Graduation Loan, Captain Loan, and Micro insurance after researching and identifying potential new markets within the sector. The Taleem loan would help small Low Cost Private Schools with the right loan package and operational guidance to improve the educational quality of the schools.  The Graduation Loan is based on the Poverty Graduation Model, through which CEIP has shifted graduated entrepreneurs to its conventional portfolio. To diversify the range of microfinance products offered by the organization, Micro insurance is now being offered to the clients. The Captain Loan will provide a new financing facility to Careem Captains to purchase their own Motorbikes and Rickshaws. As opposed to driving rickshaw conventionally, these individuals would have access to the Careem’s vast network of clients and would be able to generate more income. Individuals with lesser repayment capacity can take benefit of the same opportunity by obtaining a Motorbike under Captain Loan.

The repayment discipline of all products is through equal installments spanning over one year for Graduation Loan & Micro Insurance, and 2 years for Captain Loan & Taleem Loan.

CEIP has recently included in its clientele are the Transgender community, for whom the TRANSition initiative was launched in 2018. Can you tell us more about it?What were the factors you took into consideration when the decision of launching such product was made?

The CEIP has launched its newest campaign, ‘TRANSition’ whereby it is seeking to eliminate some of the mobility challenges that the Transgender community faces. As a part of this project, CEIP has entered into a partnership with two organizations working on Transgender rights, Go Green Welfare Society (GGWS) and The Gender Guardian(TGG), and is offering their transgender beneficiaries’ motorbikes at exceptionally favorable rates, making the instalments affordable and convenient.

The CEIP saw this partnership as a perfect opportunity to extend its services to one of society’s most marginalized community by providing them safe means of mobility that can enable them to seek employment for economic empowerment. In the pilot stage of the project, 10 transgenders were nominated by both the partners, who received the bikes at a discounted interest rate, making it economically viable for them. The CEIP also provided bike riding lessons to these transgenders through a member of their own community.

A mega event was held on 17th August, 2018 at Pearl Continental Hotel Lahore to effectuate the partnership and to create awareness on the vulnerability of transgenders in our society.  The event had 200 guests and an esteemed panel of high profile speakers including Dr. Muhammad Amjad Saqib (Akhuwat), Nighat Dad (Digital Rights Foundation), Fauzia Viqar (Punjab Commision on the Status of Women), Zenith Irfan (motorcycle girl) and Anila Saleem (Women Chambers of Commerce Lahore.) Furthermore, in order to ensure that the transgender beneficiaries can economically benefit from the bikes disbursed to them, CEIP and GGWS approached cooperatives who can provide employment opportunities to them. CEIP is in talks with ride hailing companies – Uber and Careem and delivering company- Cheetay, and GGWS has approached food chains – Sarpino’s and Broadway Pizza to provide transgender associated with the project with jobs.

The CEIP has been engaged in several partnerships of which the most recent is collaborating with KFC to create Pakistan’s first all-female delivery riders fleet. What benefits do you see in assistance of your partners?

The CEIP has been working closely with its partners to bring innovative solutions for community benefit. Following suit to traditions, it has partnered with global fast food giant, KFC, by engineering an initiative to increase female mobility and visibility on the roads by loaning vehicles to female delivery drivers. The first batch consisted of nine females, to whom CEIP provided scooties along with scooty riding lessons through its female staff members. The CEIP is thrilled to be KFC’s financing and advocacy partner on the project, which it hopes would help these female riders on their jobs, and in acquiring scooties at affordable instalments. KFC is also keen in offering this earning opportunity to CEIP’s clients and is conducting sourcing sessions at CEIP’s branch offices. Through this partnership, both the partners wish to graduate many more female riders after this initial batch over the coming months and years. Both companies are looking forward to a long and fruitful partnership.

After working with these women, what, in your opinion, are the priorities of women from marginalized communities?

The main priority of such women is to become ‘financially independent’ which can enhance their decision-making power in their families, social circles and the society overall. What concerns them the most is the lack of their ‘voice’ in decisions about their own lives. For instance, the majority of the marginalized women in Pakistan feel that their rights such as the right to education, to marry, to divorce and to property even are being usurped by the male family members. Another thing which concerns them the most is that they are not allowed to work outside their homes by the family men. Therefore, they have to rely on a limited number of working opportunities such as stitching at home, managing a salon at home or even teaching students at home.  All of these works do earn them money, but ‘Restrict their Mobility’, which they believe is highly essential for them to overcome marginalization in Pakistani labor market. A plenty of them are happy by working at home, but there are many who believe that if they work outside, they can earn much more by working in households, in offices, in textile and garment industries etc. So, the top two priorities for marginalized women in Pakistan is ‘A fair share in household decision-making power’ and ‘An enhanced mobility in the society’.

Please share the latest financial results. What are your development plans?


Products MC BDL HIL PMIFL SEL Scooty Loan** GL Taleem Loan Captain Loan Total
No. of Active Clients 30,793


1,173 98 4,437 979 23 1,517 1 2 38,044
Outstanding Loan Portfolio (million) 1,030 117 12 94 1.5 0.9 56 0.12 0.38 1,311
Total Disbursement (million) 7,694 222 19 670 7.4 1.1 85 0.15 0.4 8,699
Served Clients 213,831 1,814 99 26,543 2,782 23 1,703 1 2 244,016
Current Recovery Rate (%) 98.93 99.72 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
Average loan size (rupees) 35,892 122,569 191,919 26,572 2,695 48,062 49,770 150,000 200,000
Portfolio at Risk 1.07 0.28 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.932

*As at 31stMarch, 2019

**the numbers for Scooty loan comprises of TRANSition and KFC partnership

The CEIP is expanding its operational capacity in Punjab by opening new branches, introducing new innovative products, and increasing the number of Credit Officers per branch. This strategy has allowed CEIP to simultaneously grow within its existing area of operations as well as cater to new areas. Furthering this growth plan, CEIP has chalked down a definitive expansion strategy from 2017- 2021, and is expected to grow from 29 branches to 57 branches. CEIP expects to reach an active clientele of 125,000 by the end of 2021, at a growth rate of 40% annually, with an Outstanding Loan Portfolio of approximately PKR. 3.85 billion.

What future impact do you think the CEIP will bring to women’s empowerment in Pakistan?

Microfinance is undergoing perhaps the most rapid changes since its inception. We are an industry that is headed towards greater competition, greater innovation, and hopefully, greater outreach. The current outreach of the sector encompasses less than 10.5% of the target market, and hence, there’s a long way to go. With the entry of microfinance banks, local and foreign, the dynamics of the sector are evolving. The next few years will encourage MFIs to further strengthen their internal governance mechanisms, make their customer journeys faster and easier, and collaborate with an array of partners in innovative manners.

For CSC, the way forward involves a retrospective and inward look into its internal mechanisms and procedures. Strengthening our human resource capability is at the top of our agenda for the next year. As we gear up for further expansion in the coming years, we have taken a step back and we want to invest in the people who make us who we are. In this regard, we are proud to announce the launch of our female mentorship program which will enable junior women in the organization to freely share their experiences, and will focus on their professional development within CSC.

With that, we also take a critical look into our customer journey, and in 2019, we plan on executing our digitization plan that will enable our clients to have a more enriching and efficient experience.

The year 2019 is also bringing with it new and exciting partnerships with both corporate and international development partners. These partnerships revolve around our Solar Energy Loan, as well as the expansion of our vehicle loan and Education Loan. Working with partners has allowed us to deepen our impact and outreach, and we look forward to many such collaborations!


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