Micro credit, macro hope
With the end of the conflict, many of those who had left their homes in the Muthalikudah West GN Division, a small riverside village in the Batticaloa District, returned to their village with new hope. However, stricken by poverty, their situation showed no sign of improving.
The women, in particular, were faced with many difficulties. While on community consultation in Muthalikudah West, the UNDP identified that many women in this village were victims of domestic violence and were suffering as a result of their partner’s alcoholism and chronic poverty. Unable to raise their voices, the women were also left feeling powerless.
Therefore, with financial assistance from the Government of Japan, the UNDP provided funds to the Women Rural Development Society (WRDS) to launch a Micro Credit Scheme for women in the area. At least 59 female beneficiaries were selected and received training and assistance to make a business plan under this scheme. 15 of them were from women headed households.
Since the loans were provided in May 2010, the recipients have developed varied small businesses in the village. With the loans ranging from Rs. 5,000 to 10,000, women began engaging in activities such as making curd and string hoppers, cattle rearing, poultry, rice flour production, chili powder services, opening retail shops etc. “Every month, we have a meeting on how their business is going and share ideas on the business and the society. After three months of initiation period, we also collect monthly loan payments at the meeting,” said Raka, President of WRDS. The Scheme also made life in the village more convenient, making products readily available to the villagers. These activities have also empowered women, where they now have equal participation in decision making. Following the Scheme, society members also increased from 80 to 120.
Mrs. Puspamalar (45) is a recipient of this loan. A single mother of two children, she says that prior to receiving the loan she took care of the family by undertaking menial labour. At times her income was irregular, because she wasn’t paid money, but food. With the seed capital from WRDS, which was nearly Rs. 5,000, she has been making rice flour, which is used to make rotti, dosai and string hoppers. “Every week, I buy around 8 kilogrames of paddy, which cost Rs. 320. From the paddy, I get 4 kilograms of rice and mill it into flour. In the town retailers pay Rs. 156 per kilo for my rice flour,” she said happily. Every month she earns about Rs. 1,200 from this and pays back Rs. 500 as the monthly loan payment to the WRDS. The balance, she says, she has been saving for any emergency as well as to build a permanent house.
Soon Puspamalar will finish paying back the entire loan, but she wants to be able to borrow money again to keep her business running and save more money to build her own house. As more women feel empowered with their activities, much like Puspamalar, their hope for a better future would not stop growing.