The Taliban may be out of power, but the plight of Afghanistan’s women goes on. There are trappings of new freedoms but in much of the countryside women and girls are still treated like chattel. Many young women find their lives so unbearable that they set themselves on fire to escape. Amid this despair, it’s heartening to see individuals and groups finding innovative ways to help rebuild the lives of Afghan women, often one or two at a time.

Parwaz, which means “take flight” in Dari, is one such effort. Directed by Katrin Fakiri, an enterprising Afghan-American who worked in Silicon Valley before 9/11, Parwaz has given loans of $100 or less to about 600 women who are trying to start very, very small businesses. That might mean buying a cart and fruit for the market or being a seamstress.

Like other groups working to teach women to read, or those rebuilding health facilities demolished by the Taliban, Parwaz has had to make some concessions to Afghan realities. Male relatives co-sign loan applications, and the interest rate is cleverly called an application fee.

Mirroring microfinance’s promising track record in other places, 98 per cent of Parwaz’s clients make their payments on time and in full. It is but one example of the current homegrown efforts to improve the lives of Afghan women. Far more are needed. — The New York Times