Manhattanville Reid Castle In the Spring

Manhattanville Senior Starts Non-Profit Organization to Financially Empower Women in Pakistan

warda khan thumbManhattanville College senior Warda Khan recently acquired a full-time position after graduation at MasterCard Worldwide following a strenuous and competitive application process. However, that is not the only exciting news regarding the Senior Class President's achievements. This past December, Khan fulfilled her dream of starting a microfinance project to help empower women in her native country of Pakistan.

Khan's non-profit organization, Society for Women Empowerment through Microfinance, works to help battle violence against women in Pakistan by providing them with micro-credit loans to assist them in staring small businesses to support themselves financially so they can become independent.

"We seek to be the avenue through which women, vulnerable to poverty and victimization, are listened to and therefore helped," Khan said.

The idea of starting this project began when Khan started a society in high school which generated funds for organizations that provided support for women. She was inspired to help women from a very young age since her mother, who worked for the social welfare department, was in charge of women's shelters.

For the initial $1,000 funding for Society for Women Empowerment through Microfinance, Khan worked with the not-for-profit organization Child Literacy, which serves the social, educational and psychological needs of children and teenagers who are disadvantaged and /or abused.

Though $1,000 might not seem like a lot of money to help women start their own small businesses, in Pakistan that amount can go a long way.

"I actually funded seven women this December," Khan said. "We gave around $50-$100 to each of the women and they bought their sewing machines and maybe rented a little shop or a retail store. They have one year to pay back the loan."

Her idea isn't the first of its kind in Pakistan. Khan worked with the organization Akhuwat, the largest interest free microfinance organization in Pakistan, to initiate the project. They sent her the profiles of many women and she picked seven who she felt were the most in need. Akhuwat then helped her to distribute the funds and will help to reclaim the funds, interest free. Most organizations charge 15-20 percent interest.

"There are many other projects in Pakistan that provide money to help women, " Khan said. "What makes mine different is that is it interest free.I'm showing them humanity. When they ask me how do I make a profit ?I say I'm not in it to make a profit.'"

For now, Khan plans to follow-up with these women every month to track their progress and has solid future plans for the organization. She hopes to find a permanent donor for funding, either through Child Literacy or possibly her soon-to-be employers MasterCard, to help grow the program to more than just providing loans.

"I plan on having skill building workshops in Pakistan, where before they start their businesses they would be given training on how to improve it based on their business plan," Khan said. "Once I establish more contacts back home and I'm in a more stable position, I want to have those workshops conducted before I disperse the funds."

While Khan initially had the idea to financially empower women in high school, she credits Manhattanville for giving her the courage to go forward in creating her non-profit organization.

"Every little thing that I do today is because of Manhattanville," she said. "Every single person acted like my family. I would go to my professors and they would be my mentors.I would go to someone in Duchesne and they would be my parents. People had faith in me so anywhere I went as a leader I succeeded and that made me think there is more that I can do then I think I can. It's because of Manhattanville."

Khan is very active within the Manhattanville Community. She is currently Senior Class President and works with both Seeds of Peace and Muslim Students Association and is a Duchesne Scholar. She recently joined the Diversity Taskforce Committee, which hosted its first event on March 21, 2012, a full-day of workshops to embrace the diversity of the Manhattanville Community.

"I came here with not too many expectations and I have no regrets coming here," she said. "This place makes you explore yourself so much, you get to know yourself and your potential. I absolutely wouldn't change that."