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Microcredit Case Study: FINCA Afghanistan client Fatima Mohammad Mussah
Category: Microcredit | By CMC-2011, 12-Sep-2011 | Viewed 4243  Comments 0
Fatima 2003
The second story of microcredit success and success of the human spirit is about Fatima Mussah of Afganistan. Rupert Scofield, President and CEO of FINCA International and one of this year's speakers at the Calgary Microcredit Conference, shares Fatima's story with the Rotarian community.

Fatima Mohammad Mussah currently lives in the village of Jebrayil in Herat Province, Afghanistan.  Married, with ten children, she runs a small, successful tailoring business to help support her family. She was one of FINCA Afghanistan's first clients, receiving her initial loan soon after the subsidiary opened its doors in 2003.

Fatima's story is one of overcoming difficult and challenging circumstances, all the while remaining hard working and resourceful, and dedicated to her family's well being.

In 1980, as fighting intensified between the Soviet invaders and the Afghan resistance fighters (mujahideen), Fatima and her family, like thousands of others, fled the Northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif for the safety of Iran. She and her husband carried their four sons on difficult roads and rugged mountains to reach the eastern Iranian city of Meshad, where she shortly gave birth to her first daughter.

Fatima gave birth to two more daughters and another son in Meshad, and built a new life there, but she missed her home and suffered under the resentment some Iranians felt for the flood of Afghan refugees. 

"Iran was good, but that was not our own country. These people called us Afghan with a bad sound in their voice."

Fifteen years later, Fatima's family returned to Afghanistan's Herat province, just over the border from Iran, and settled in Jebrayil. It was not her home, but there was land available, and her family was happy to be in their homeland. Two weeks after returning, however, the Taliban took control of the province, instituting their brutal policies.

While her family was still living in a tent, the enterprising couple began to look for work. Fatima's husband, Mohammad Hussain, started a small business transporting heavy goods around the village on a pushcart, earning about $30/month. Fatima began work as a tailor, sewing clothes and selling them to wholesalers. After a difficult first year, they had saved enough money to build a house. She taught her children to sew carpets to supplement the family income, but she also found time for them to go to school.

In June 2000, the Taliban falsely accused Fatima's husband of supporting a rebel commander. Hussain was sent to prison in Kandahar, and Fatima followed her husband, joining the wives of others who had been arrested.  Her children stayed in Herat, weaving carpets, under the care of her eldest son.

Fatima returned home to her children and, in August 2001, her husband was released. The departure of the Taliban two months later was a happy moment for the women of Jebrayil, as they felt freer to walk in the open. 

Fatima's family life improved, and her tailoring business brought in regular income so that "our income equaled our expenses," but her business income was unreliable, running from $100/month during spring and holiday seasons down to $30/month in winter, leaving her little margin against future misfortune. 

Fatima was among the first group of Jebrayil women to receive a microloan from FINCA in 2003. She and five friends formed a Savings and Credit Group called Fuladi ("steely," after the strength the members see in the group), and each received an initial FINCA Afghanistan loan of 6,000 Afghanis ($125) to invest in their small businesses: tailoring, sewing, and food processing. 

Fatima 2011
After several successful years as a FINCA client, during which she was able to expand her tailoring business and improve her family's living standards and security, Fatima stopped borrowing from FINCA. Today, she still runs a successful tailoring business, and she has been joined by her daughter as a partner. Together, they now earn more than $100 per month in income. This makes Fatima comparatively prosperous in a country with a per capita GDP of just $900, and enables her to support her entire family, which has lost the income from her husband, who is now too old to work. 

Fatima is very happy that she was able to transform her family's life after the harsh experience of life in Iran and under the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. She is grateful to FINCA for providing her with the financial support she needed to grow her business. She is hopeful for the future, and plans to become a FINCA client again, so she can invest in improving her business even more, in order to better provide for her family.
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