ISLAMABAD: “The State Bank of Pakistan recognizes microfinance as an effective tool for an inclusive financial system as it gives access to those socio-economic segments, especially enterprises, who are otherwise neglected. The SBP has enhanced the limit for micro enterprises and micro housing from 1 million to 3 million to support the financing needs of the low-income segments.” This was stated by Ms. Sima Kamil, Deputy Governor, State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) at the 14th Citi Micro-entrepreneurship Award (CMA) ceremony where 37 entrepreneurial champions from the rural areas of Pakistan were honoured. Moreover, it was jointly hosted by the Citi Foundation and Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF). Ms. Sima Kamil commended all the community members who have established small businesses with the help of micro loans. The recipients of the Awards from all geographical localities of Pakistan had shown remarkable entrepreneurial skills by availing microfinance facilities through various Financial Institutions (FIs). They have not only secured a prosperous life for their families but also emerged as role models in their respective communities. Thardeep Microfinance Institution won the award for the most innovative Micro-finance Institution (MFI), while Telenor Microfinance Bank and the Kashf Foundation were the runners-up in this category. The winner for the national microfinance (female) category is Ms. Sumera Arzoo who was a borrower from the CSC Empowerment and Inclusion Programme, while Abdul Ghaffar bagged the award for national microfinance (male) category who availed financing from Khushhali Microfinance Bank Ltd. Deputy Governor State Bank Ms. Sima Kamil said she was immensely happy to note that almost 60% of award winners were women. She further stated that the share of women borrowers currently is just 20% and urged the MFIs to formulate gender inclusive policies. She especially commended the efforts of the Citi Foundation and PPAF for strengthening the microfinance sector in Pakistan through these years. Ahmed Bozai, Citi Country Officer & Managing Director, Pakistan while addressing the ceremony said, “These aspiring individuals are a living testament of how hard work, perseverance, and determination can spell success, despite very little capital and resources. He congratulated PPAF for successfully implementing the CMA programme in Pakistan for the last 14 years. Speaking at the occasion, Nadir Gul, Chief Operating Officer (COO), PPAF said, “It is an excellent programme, and we laud the Citi Foundation’s commitment in organising these awards year after year. This programme honours extraordinary micro-entrepreneurs across Pakistan who, with their small enterprises, have transformed microcredit loans into life changing opportunities for their families and communities.” PPAF and its partners have provided 8.4 million microcredit loans over the years to support the economic empowerment of underserved rural communities. Since inception, the Citi Micro-entrepreneurship Award (CMA) has recognised over 500 outstanding micro-entrepreneurs in Pakistan. The objective of the programme is to highlight extraordinary micro-entrepreneurs who have taken small loans and built businesses that sustain them economically and allow them to contribute to their communities by providing employment. The Citi Micro-entrepreneurship Awards programme serves as an important milestone in showcasing Pakistan’s real success stories to a global audience as well as helps bolster Pakistan’s image internationally. The CMA programme, launched in 2005, is a global initiative that showcases microfinance as a potent tool for poverty alleviation, and micro-entrepreneurs as responsible, accountable, and credit-worthy bank clients. The ceremony held in Islamabad was a successful culmination of more than a decade-long partnership between the Citi Foundation and PPAF, with an aim to inspire similar initiatives to come forward and support the aspiring micro-entrepreneurs and further strengthen the microfinance industry of Pakistan.