Global Leadership Awards
Roshaneh Zafar is the founder and managing director of the Kashf Foundation — the first specialized microfinance institution (MFI) to serve women in Pakistan. She believes that microfinance is about changing mindsets and enabling women to realize their inherent worth by “building that ladder which links what women are to what they can be.”
Roshaneh established the Kashf Foundation in 1996, after a chance meeting with Nobel Laureate, Professor Muhammad Yunus of the Grameen Bank. Dr. Yunus invested in Roshaneh and her vision; she now returns the favor by investing in others, fulfilling her dream by working to empower hundreds of thousands of Pakistani women, helping them to transcend economic barriers that too often challenge their full and equal participation in society.
As a researcher with extensive field experience, Roshaneh transferred methodology into practice and creatively tailored Dr. Yunus’ model of microfinance to serve Pakistani women. Under her guidance, the Kashf Foundation has been one of the country’s fastest growing MFIs and the first organization of its kind to achieve financial self-sufficiency, thus practically demonstrating the business case for investing in women’s economic empowerment.
Since 1996, the foundation has expanded its impact from a mere 15 female clients to 301,000 clients and has cumulatively disbursed US$225 million in loans to over one million poor families. An innovator in the field of microfinance, the Kashf Foundation is the first nongovernmental MFI to provide insurance services, and introduce individual lending to target the “missing middle” of the microfinance market, while currently it is developing a systematic program for imparting financial education to women and girls.
Roshaneh led a team at the Kashf Foundation to establish the Kashf Microfinance Bank, the first in her nation to mobilize deposits from low-income households, especially those led by women, thus providing an avenue for the financial mainstreaming of women in her country. The Kashf Foundation has been ranked 34 out of the top 50 MFIs by Forbes in 2007, and was honored in 2009 with the OneWomen Initiative Award by the U.S. State Department.
A recognized leader in the field of women’s economic empowerment, Roshaneh serves as an active member of numerous working groups, including the La Pietra Coalition to Advance Women and the World, the Gender Gap Council and the Financial Empowerment Council of the World Economic Forum. She participated in the UN Advisory Group on Inclusive Financial Services, and is a founding member of the Pakistan Microfinance Network.
In recognition of her outstanding accomplishments, Roshaneh has among other honors been awarded the Tamgha i Imtiaz, one of Pakistan’s highest civilian awards, by the President of Pakistan. Prior to founding the Kashf Foundation, Roshaneh worked for several years with the World Bank in Islamabad. She is a graduate of the Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in Finance and Economics, and she also holds a Masters in International and Development Economics from Yale University.