One of the ways Opportunity creates a better future for Indian women is through our education finance loans. We believe the most basic but essential building block of empowering people to work their way out of poverty is education. This is more than common sense, there are facts, including these from USAID, to back it up. A few of the most alarming:
Opportunity International is working toward the day when all girls have access to an education. We provide school fee loans in India so parents can afford their children’s tuition. Our loans and business training for school proprietors help them build schools and hire teachers. When a girl is sent to school, she has the chance for a healthier, more hopeful future with choices her mother never had. With more education, girls marry later and have fewer children, the country's economy improves and government corruption declines.
These are the opportunities that are now available to Ramya, a 1st grader in India who is a recipient of a scholarship from our Education Finance program in India. Ramya wants to be a doctor when she grows up, and she knows that getting a good education now is the only way she will be able to achieve her dreams. Some of our donors had the chance to meet Ramya during an Insight Trip to visit our work in India, and she was thrilled to share her dreams and hopes with them. With her scholarship from Opportunity, these dreams can now someday become a reality.
Thank you for all your support in helping girls like Ramya build a better future!
Many women in India struggle to find the money to send their children to school. So a few years ago, Opportunity launched a school loan problem to help educate the future generations.
The Banking on Education pilot at Growing Opportunity Finance commenced in May 2010, focusing primarily on school fee loans, with a supplementary scholarship program. Both of these products are helping establish credibility and trust with clients and have created inroads with schools to promote scholastic leadership. As of December 2011, Opportunity India has 2,080 active school fee loans with an outstanding loan portfolio valuing $96,267, up from $68,075 in June 2011.
Plans for 2012 include:
Mercy comes from a lower middle class family, her father works as a caregiver earning about $3 per day to support his entire family. Mercy says she is grateful to Opportunity India for supporting her education. “I feel that with the scholarship I can now focus on my studies putting me in a position to achieve my dream to become a Software Engineer. The scholarship reduced my parent’s burden significantly and it gave me a new commitment toward my studies.” The scholarship covered most of the costs and she says finishing school will bring great honor to her family. She plans to achieve all she can to share that honor with her school and with Opportunity India. “I am grateful to Opportunity India.”
Empowering Indian Women
Opportunity’s Indian microfinance organizations disburse 99.6% of their loans to women. In addition to group loans and financial training, each institution seeks to meet the needs of its clients by building partnerships to help them succeed. Some highlights of these transformational collaborations include:
Meet Radhika of Hyderabad, India, a Woman Empowered by Opportunity
Radhika’s home bustles with customers wanting to buy baskets and flower decorations for special events. Business is going well. Flowers fill almost every spare space in the house, and long reeds lie neatly stacked on the floor, ready to be woven into baskets. Out front, a sign reads ‘Bhanu Prasad Flower Decorations,’ alerting passersby to the creations hidden inside. The sign is a recent addition to the business, paid for by a loan. Before it was there, business was not so good for Radhika and her husband. With no way of advertising their products, they often went days without selling a thing.Hunger was a common reality. Radhika’s story is a testament that when a hard-working entrepreneur is empowered by microfinance, the results are truly transformative for both the entrepreneur and their family. By improving their business, the loan they received paved a way out of poverty for Radhika and her husband. The couple’s business is thriving and they have a steady flow of regular customers in their community.
It’s Monday and A. Sheela Shantakumari is leading the Baba Trust Group meeting in Chennai, India. Nineteen women have joined together to repay loans, learn accounting skills and socialize.
Like many women in the world whose activity is limited by social conventions, Sheela barely left her house two years ago. Today, she is president of her Trust Group and a community leader with a profitable business. Sheela credits her new life to counsel from her loan officer, support from her group and training in business skills.
Opportunity International Trust Groups make it possible for enterprising individuals to improve their lives and make a difference in their community—no matter how meager their resources. A Trust Group begins when 10 to 30 entrepreneurs, usually women, join together and elect leaders. To be eligible for loans, members undergo four to eight weeks of training. As a group, they pledge to guarantee each others' loans and support one others' businesses. Because collateral is not necessary, credit becomes available to those previously locked out from formal financial services.
Weekly meetings are the hallmark of the Trust Group model. As they receive training in business practices, interpersonal relationships and health care issues, members develop close alliances along with new skills. For A. Sheela Shantakumari, the entire experience has been life-changing. “My courage has grown and I am very grateful and proud to be with Opportunity,” she says. Her sari sales business has tripled since she helped found the Baba Trust Group. She has become well known in her community through her involvement in philanthropic projects, including a children’s art festival that provides a platform for students to express themselves.
With a high repayment rate, Trust Groups have proven to be an effective grassroots approach to tackling poverty. While building up local economies, these close-knit groups also foster personal growth and create community leaders like Sheela.
Ending Domestic Violence
Opportunity and the International Foundation for Crime Prevention and Victim Care (PCVC) bring light to the deep-seated assumptions and attitudes toward women. PCVC conducts seminars on domestic violence, challenging assumptions and leading open discussions. “I found this training sessions very useful. There are a number of women in my Trust Group who are facing domestic violence. I am looking forward to taking the message to them,” says Sheela, leader of the Baba Trust Group (pictured left).Opportunity India is also addressing suicide prevention. Opportunity and SNEHA educate Trust Groups on suicide prevention and possible solutions to depression. The Trust Group setting builds a safe environment to address these challenging issues.
Quality of Life Improvements
Opportunity India, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity, conducted a housing survey at four branches to measure the need and interest for financing home improvements. As a response to the high rate of positive responses, we are now developing Housing Loans to match the needs of our clients while ensuring we keep the loans affordable and relevant. Thirty clients received home improvement loans so far this year with a goal to fund 300 in the remaining months.
Education Loan Products
The Banking on Education pilot at Opportunity India commenced in May 2010, focusing primarily on school fee loans, with a supplementary scholarship program. Both of these products are helping Opportunity India establish credibility and trust with clients in the education sector and have created inroads with schools to promote scholastic leadership. As of June 2011, India has 4,759 active student fee loans with an outstanding loan portfolio valuing $68,075.
Ashwini and her family value the education of women in their community in India. In the past, Ashwini’s father borrowed from money lenders, putting himself at risk for high interest repayment rates. The danger of this financial decision means that he has been unable to pay back the loans, perpetuating cycles of debt and poverty. With the help of an Opportunity scholarship, Ashwini is guaranteed to finish the last two years of her schooling. She can now fulfill her childhood dream to one day become an engineer.
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