Sunday, November 14, 2010

Here’s a Woman Fighting Terrorism. With Microloans

by Nicholas D. Kristof

New York Times

November 13, 2010

An old friend of mine here fights terrorists, but not the way you’re thinking. She could barely defeat a truculent child in hand-to-hand combat, and if she ever picked up an AK-47 — well, you’d pray it was unloaded.

Roshaneh Zafar is an American- educated banker who fights extremism with microfinance. She has dedicated her life to empowering some of Pakistan’s most impoverished women and giving them the tools to run businesses of their own. The United States should learn from warriors like her.

Bullets and drones may kill terrorists, but Roshaneh creates jobs and educational opportunities for hundreds of thousands of people — draining the swamps that breed terrorists.

“Charity is limited, but capitalism isn’t,” Roshaneh said. “If you want to change the world, you need market-based solutions.” That’s the point of microfinance — typically, lending very poor people small amounts of money so that they can buy a rickshaw or raw materials and start a tiny business.