In the Middle East, North Africa, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia, IFC is helping to combat poverty and reduce inequality. Here, in their own words, are the stories of some people who have been touched by that work.
I am 17 and I own two branches of Chottu Chai Wala, my own take on a dhaba restaurant. I love tea and want to give it the same prestige that Starbucks gives to coffee.
We have been living on this land for generations. There are about 150 people in our community and most of them are illiterate. We have always been animal grazers and milk sellers. We were surviving in this harsh land. Me and my brother were the only educated ones. We both have our bachelor's degree. We got jobs as teachers through a government program but then ... it ended.
When I turned 18, I began working as an ironsmith with a kind old man, who later passed away. The industry was profitable and I didn’t want to leave it. So, I decided to start my own shop. Although my father is still alive, am the cornerstone of our family. Everyone depends on me and on the money I am making. My job pays better than my dad’s; he farms a small plot of land. When you have three brothers and two sisters depending on you, that is a big responsibility.
My husband then accepted a request to endorse a loan for a close friend who was struggling financially. Our problems have been ongoing since then, but we can now finally see an end in sight
I am now living separately from my husband. In the old house there was a generator and life was comfortable, but I can't afford one in my new house where I now live with my five children.
I grew up in a town called Singal in the mountains (of) northwestern of Pakistan. When I ended up in Karachi, I was happy to be in a place with so much opportunity. I miss my home town, especially all the natural beauty.
I used to have sharp eyes, but they can’t handle heat or fire anymore. I was making good money as an ironsmith, working for long hours with many clients. It was a family business, passed from father to sons. It almost destroyed my eyes though, so I had to look for another job to support my family and keep my sight.
My father was a fisherman but by the time I grew up he was just sitting at home. I moved to Karachi and began apprenticing as a welder after school. I was there for almost a dozen years doing menial work at workshop. There were no other opportunities for me. I applied once to be a forest officer but there were 108 applicants and only four spots.
I am the third chair of our (homeowners) association. I know the entire building better than my own closet! My working day is irregular. Something might happen at night or over the weekend. Sometimes I feel tired and ready to quit. Then I think of my people, my loan, my plans… and realize that I like what I do.
We needed to diversify our export markets and become an attractive partner for retailers in the European Union. However, we found that having high-quality produce wasn’t enough.
I grew up taking things apart and playing with screwdrivers with my father and brother. Engineering was a natural interest. But Mirpur, my hometown, is a pretty conservative place.
This kindergarten is my baby. And as any baby, it can bring a smile to my face and it can bring tears to my eyes. I have been here from the beginning. Some people might say that leading a pre-school is not as prestigious as being a manager of a company. They don’t see the effort it takes to run a kindergarten, to keep it in order.
I was born in the village of Korumdu and have been living here for 61 years. My six children were born and raised here. Before the break-up of the Soviet Union, I worked at a state-owned farm. I was a chief zoologist meaning that I was responsible for lots of things, like feeding and breeding animals.
Before becoming a businesswoman, I served as a medical worker in remote Zhetisay, Kazakhstan’s southernmost town. In 1997, after a 12-year career in medicine, I decided to quit my job and start producing traditional clothes. The decision was not easy, but my family needed to earn more in order to raise and educate our four children.
I sell household items. I started this business 17 years ago after my father passed away. I had to take care of my family from a young age. I have 14 people in my family. I take my cart around into about 10 villages every week.
I live in Jacobabad and run a small shop where I sell mobile airtime and phone cases. The power here is unreliable and there are two-hour outages every two hours. Customers would leave if there is no electricity at the shop.
Our community has changed ever since solar lights have been introduced in the village. Before, everyone would stay indoors at night. But now in the evening it is like a festival outside by the local stream. Children and families step out and socialize. The local store has a solar light, the ice seller has a solar light; everything is lit and alive.
A business is like a child – you need to love it. If you don’t love it, you won’t be successful. I turned my hobby into business. But we soon discovered that “love” alone isn’t enough--business knowledge is crucial.
I came to Lebanon with my husband and my six children. When we arrived, my husband wasn’t able to find a job so he kept going back and forth between Lebanon and Syria trying to find work. Two years later, after failing to secure a job, he died of a stroke in Syria. We were all here in Lebanon when it happened. And now I’m a widow trying to support my family.
Like it or not, people are often skeptical about the abilities of business women. They think women are passive owners, with few real business skills. But that is not true! If women have more support, they'll be able to take their rightful place alongside men in the business community.
I used to study chemistry at Syria University and I finished my first year. Then we were forced to leave the country and come to Jordan. In Jordan, life is different and more expensive, especially education.
In Douma, the situation was getting more complicated every day. It was turning into a bloodbath. We tried to move to another city inside Syria but trouble kept spreading from one city to another, so my father decided to take the whole family to Jordan. I had to start from scratch.
I was born and raised in Tyup village in the Issyk-Kul region. I think that the whole Issyk-Kul region, and our Tyup district, were created by God for animal husbandry. Look at the pastures we have!
We understand that we need to work together with the local community. They are our brothers and we are living together. If we form good relationships and care for the people and win their hearts then we can live and work together peacefully. Everyone can grow together.
My father has worked his whole life in steel mills and I have entered the same profession as him. I work as an electrical and instrument technician. My father worked hard all his life, but in the steel mills salaries are not very regular. I just want to provide for my family - my parents, my siblings, and my wife.
I have been working in the power industry for the entirety of my career. My work has taken me across Pakistan and all over the world to Nigeria, Qatar, Saudia Arabia. But it is a hard life. I am always alone when on assignment, away from my family, and so it is a strain on my relationships. Even now we live here on this plant, for months, in the desert, cut off from the rest of the world.
I know Pakistan is changing. When I was in the restaurant business we had one female hostess and the rest of our staff was male. Now when I go out, I see more and more women in the service industry. This is because the world is becoming smaller and people are opening their minds. Things are definitely changing.
Life didn’t really give me much of a chance. I was forced to leave education and help my family with farming when I was eight. I come from a very poor family, and my father left us nothing when he died. So I started from scratch, worked as a baker and a construction worker, and now I’m in the farming business. I’m a self-made man, and very proud of what I have achieved so far.