PESHAWAR, June 27: An international conference on Gender Equality and Micro Finance, organized by the International Network for Alternative Financial Institutions (INAFI) and hosted by the Sarhad Rural Support Programme, was held here on Monday. The Financial Sector Strengthening Project of SDC has also contributed financial support towards the holding of the conference, said a press release issued here. Asif Iqbal Daudzai, provincial minister for information, inaugurated the conference and applauded the decision of the organizers to hold the conference in Peshawar.
Mr Daudzai pointed out that he had been a social activist before entering politics and appreciated the importance of grass-root development for poverty alleviation.
He said that the MMA government was committed to improving the standard of living of the poor and marginalized.
He said that development which respected local culture and norms would be owned by the people.
Mr Daudzai said that while economic growth was important for raising incomes its benefits would only trickle down to the lowest levels in the society if programmes at the grass-root level were fostered.
Secretary Planning and Development Manzoor Badshah said that micro-finance was an important tool for poverty alleviation of the government of Pakistan, and added that however it had limited success in the Frontier because of the thinly spread population, few income-earning opportunities and high risks associated with agriculture, which was the predominant source of livelihood for the people, and ideological reasons.
He said that there had been little investment in building the capacity of the institutions while the most attention had been paid to developing credit lines in the NWFP.
He also called for creative solutions to the many cultural and religious factors which contribute towards the low uptake of credit.
Mr Atiqun Nabi, executive director of INAFI, explained that the INAFI foundation supported networks in three of the most depressed regions of the world: Africa, Latin America and Asia. He said that the present conference was part of two conferences being organized in the region to celebrate the International Year of Micro Credit as declared by the United Nations.
Others who spoke on the occasion included Ms Sheepa Aziz, director, Human Resources of BRAC; Shoaib Sultan Khan, chairman, RSPN; Mrs Munawar Humayun, chairperson, SRSP, and Masood Ul Mulk, CEO, SRSP.
The conference was attended by participants from Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and practitioners from different NGOs and micro-finance institutions in Pakistan.