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Apr 8, 2019

How Noorbanu built a business on a microloan

Noorbanu and Rajah in their shoe factory
Noorbanu and Rajah in their shoe factory

One of the most uplifting experiences when I visit Kolkata is a trip to visit the women who have set up small businesses.

Uplifting because the impact of these loans is seen so quickly. 

Thanks to your generosity, we can distribute microloans to vulnerable women who live in the squatter camps beside the railways and sewers.   Almost all are former rag pickers, who have scraped by and fed their families by collecting other peoples waste and selling it on to dealers. With no access to financial services (other than loan sharks) these women have little hope of changing their lives

Take Noorbanu. She took a small loan of Rs 15,000 (£166/USD219) in June 2017.  She set up a small shoe making business. Her husband Rajah got involved and they grew the business together, taking the finished goods to sell to merchants at one of Kolkata’s biggest markets. By March 2018 the family income had risen from Rs7000 a month to Rs13000 (this is a very good income, and much more than many of Tiljala SHED’s staff earn). The original loan was paid off in full by March 2018, but Noorbanu applied for a further loan. This time they took Rs20,000 and started to expand the business and to take on staff.  The pictures you see were taken in January when I visited this industrious little factory built on a bank beside the railway.  The Rs20,000 was also returned very quickly and Noorbanu now employs 8 staff. They make 100 pairs of shoes a day and clear Rs15 – 20 profit per pair.

Rajah is clearly in charge of the factory, but Noorbanu is responsible for the finances and they seem to be a great team. They are planning a future away from the chaos of the railway squatters where they can set up a formal factory and a comfortable home. 

By all accounts, like so many of the men in these communities, Rajah had been a bit of a troublemaker, drinking hooch and becoming violent.  But he is a changed man, they say, having put all of that behind him.

In fact, the reduction in domestic violence is, for me, one of the most significant outcomes of this excellent project. With access to credit these women are truly empowered to change their own and their families’ lives.

And, of course, the Rs35,000 lent to Noorbanu, was returned to the Revolving Fund and is now busy helping other families to lift themselves out of poverty and despair.

Please consider a generous donation today – even better a regular contribution – so that you can transform the lives of extremely vulnerable women in this forgotten part of Kolkata.

This week the first $50 (£38) of every donation attracts an additional 60% in matched funding. So, if you are a UK taxpayer a donation of £38 is worth over £70 to us until Friday 12th April 2019

 

The numbers:

Number of beneficiaries/loans since June 2016              428

Beneficiaries with 2nd loans                                               50

Beneficiaries with 3rd loans                                                  4

Total amount disbursed                                                     £81,344 (about half is from returned loans)

Loan recovery rate                                                              96.6% (Yes, really)

Noornbanu
Noornbanu's factory. Eight employees and growing..
Apr 8, 2019

Your donation is worth 60% more this week

Kashmira loves school and our after school classes
Kashmira loves school and our after school classes

Each time I visit the Topsia Community Centre, I am bowled over by the children's singing.


Tiljala SHED’s 5 community centres are located in the heart of each of the 5 highly vulnerable communities where we work. The Topsia Centre can only be reached by crossing a footbridge over filthy water onto an island where 700 families live in illegal shelters surrounded by the foetid run-off from Kolkata’s sewerage system. Many won’t visit purely because of the smell. For the 150 children who attend our afterschool classes this is the only home they have ever known.


Step into the centre after 3 pm and you’ll be greeted with songs and poems. Although the children do not learn English at school, they have an extraordinary ability to pick up the language from the songs they learn after school. A working knowledge of written and spoken English provides a route out of the slum and into mainstream society. And they know it. If I ask the older ones what they really want, they all agree it is English lessons.


This week, all donations up to $50 (£38) are being matched 60% by GlobalGiving. This means that a £38 donation from a UK tax payer would be worth £70 to us. And that is enough to pay a month’s wages to a dedicated English teacher.
Please consider an additional donation this week or even set up a new regular donation, so that we can appoint English teachers in our 5 centres and give these children this opportunity to change their futures.

About the project
600 children of rag pickers, rickshaw drivers, maidservants, vegetable sellers are enrolled on Tiljala SHED's Education and Child Protection programme. They are required to attend their local government school but in the afternoon they attend remedial classes in T SHED's 5 centres, one in the heart of each community where we work. Here they play, sing, complete their homework, attend remedial sessions and child protection workshops. They love the classes and attendance is very high. Their parents are also closely involved - after all it is only with the parents' consent that the children remain in education and avoid dropping out. Tiljala SHED works very hard to persuade the parents that a proper education is worth the sacrifice of anything a boy might earn rag picking or working in a factory. And infinitely better than marrying off a daughter as soon as she reaches puberty.

 

Kashmira
Kashmira is nearly 7 years old and she lives in the Topsia squatter camp with her family.  Bablu, her father, makes about £1.50 ($2) a day pulling a riskshaw. Her mother, Meena, supplements this meagre income by working as a maidservant for £17 ($22) a month. At the moment, Bablu is sick and hasn’t been able to work for a while.  This is common: hard labour and poverty makes you vulnerable to illness, especially at this time of year when it is so hot. But to meet Kashmira you wouldn’t guess what hardship her family suffers.  She is the life and soul of the Topsia class.  At just 6 years old, she is a natural performer and leads the entire class of around 60 children in singing. She also loves school and is a top performer there too.  But sadly the realities of life in a community like this mean that there is a high chance of Kashmira dropping out of education and being married off as young as 14 to repeat the cycle of poverty, exploitation and child bearing.  All this energy and potential would be wasted. She needs your support to help her stay in education and make a different future fort herself.  It costs just £11 ($15) per month to support a child like Kashmira

Kashmira in Feb 2018
Kashmira in Feb 2018
After school session at Topsia
After school session at Topsia

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Mar 11, 2019

Usha - The "Sareewalli"

Usha receives her cheque
Usha receives her cheque

Each time I visit Kolkata I make a point of visiting as many of the beneficiaries of this project as I can. Mainly because these women’s stories are so uplifting. Read here how a small micro loan of just £200 empowers a woman to lift herself out of poverty.


"Usha’s husband died just few years after her marriage. She has 2 sons. They were very small when her husband passed away.
 After her husband passed away she faced struggle and hardship and ultimately, she became a maidservant and it was just contributing Rs.1500-2000 per month to her family. This small income was not enough. Usha always wanted to do something big which she had in her mind. But time was not with her and she faced many hurdles. She became a part of the CIG and eventually she got a loan of Rs.20,000/ to start her saree business. She is selling sarees door to door and also gets her customer at her doorstep. She lives in a small hut at Topsia canal side and the condition of the house is ramshackle. With her sincere effort, the saree business was booming, and her sales were touching skies. She repaid the loan in 6 months which had a time period of 10 months. She has bigger plans for her expansion. She applied for loan again and after discussion with the CIGs she again got a loan but this time Rs.30, 000/. She is the first beneficiary to get a Rs.30, 000/ loan and she is repaying fast without any delay.
After her husband passed away she faced struggle and hardship and ultimately, she became a maidservant and it was just contributing Rs.1500-2000 per month to her family. This small income was not enough. Usha always wanted to do something big which she had in her mind. But time was not with her and she faced many hurdles. She became a part of the CIG and eventually she got a loan of Rs.20,000/ to start her saree business. She is selling sarees door to door and also gets her customer at her doorstep. She lives in a small hut at Topsia canal side and the condition of the house is ramshackle. With her sincere effort, the saree business was booming, and her sales were touching skies. She repaid the loan in 6 months which had a time period of 10 months. She has bigger plans for her expansion. She applied for loan again and after discussion with the CIGs she again got a loan but this time Rs.30, 000/. She is the first beneficiary to get a Rs.30, 000/ loan and she is repaying fast without any delay.
 
With her income she is planning to shift from her kacha kouse (temporary makeshift) to pucca (permanent structure) house in the slum which is an indication of her stable income. She is famous in the area and people call her "sareewali" - the sari seller. Usha is trying her best to transform her life. She is one of many who inspire us in our daily life.”


Almost 400 women have now benefited from this fantastic project. We desperately need new funds so we can continue to provide loans and ultimately make this project entirely self sustaining. 

 

 
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