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“They tend to put aside more savings for their children’s and community’s welfare, rather than invest all available funds into their business.”

Some microcredit skeptics have questioned the practice of lending to a select few entrepreneurs, pointing out that poverty afflicts many more people than those who can make a profit. However, the story of Masume Moyar, a Herat tailor and mother of two, shows how an individual’s profit can contribute to her community.

Mrs. Moyar has run a tailoring business ever since her husband, Abdullah, was injured in fighting, but also employs and trains other young women. She not only teaches them to sew but also how to work with suppliers and distributors.

She has used FINCA’s loans to buy new sewing machines, to increase her line of products and to improve working conditions for her employees. Her single loan provides benefits, income and instruction to eight younger women.

“In Islam, learning and teaching are a form of prayer,” Mrs. Moyar said. “I could not keep my skills to myself.” In Herat, women have limited freedom to work in private, girls are allowed to play in the streets, and schools are reopening to give them the education their mothers could not receive. But despite the improvements from hard-line Taliban rule, Mr. Griswold says that, at this point, equality of the sexes is still a distant hope.

“We will have a huge improvement if we can just say that all our female clients have been granted the right to work and a measure of respect, rather than remaining as the jealously guarded property of husbands,” he said.