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Oct 22, 2019

Two Families Struggling to Survive


My two colleagues, Ayesha and Parveen, have sent through case studies of families who badly need food rations.

It is festival time in Kolkata: the Pujas and Diwali bring families out to the shops and the markets. It is traditional to buy new clothes for the festive season as well as spending time and money eating and spending time with family and friends. Giant brightly-lit and colourful structures, called pandals, are built all over the city and families enjoy walking around enjoying the spectacle.

But I wonder how these two women have spent the holidays: Rabia is a widow. She is 61 years old and lives in a single room with her extended family of 8.  This is what my colleague Ayesha writes: Rabia’s husband expired five years ago. Since then she herself takes care and full responsibility of the family. Her daughter Roshni (age 26) has been deserted by the husband and staying with the mother for the past two years. She prepares paper packets and sells them to the grocers and thus earns a little amount (£6 a month). She has two children. Due to financial crisis is unable to send them to good school. Rabia has 14 year old son who is a child labourer and works in a garage.  Her sister Shakila is also a widow who is disabled and has to beg to help run the family.  Rabia herself is a maidservant, earning $13/£10 a month. Her son earns another £10 and her nephew earns around $9/£7. Between the 8 of them, 4 are working and the total family income is about $39/£30.   If any of them were to fall sick and need medical they would be in even more serious trouble.   

But perhaps Rabia and her family are lucky. Nagma lives on the street.  She too lives with 7 other family members. Read what my colleague Parveen has written:      There are 8 members in the family living on the foothpath. Nagma  tries her best to make ends meet despite the challenges she faces. Her husband is a van puller and although earning  approx. 3000/-  ($42) in a month he hands over very little to the family. Mother is a domestic maid. She is often sick. She also begs near the mosque. Her brother Nehu has liver jaundice and was hospitalised recently. He is having medicines   Another brother named Nasir has tuberculosis  and recovered few months ago but is very weak and hence cannot work . Previously he  used to wash taxis  and  contributed to the family. They face a lot of harassment living on the street and live in constant fear of eviction. The family is going through severe crisis and would be grateful if the emergency food is given to them.      

Thanks to your generosity, Tiljala SHED is able to provide emergency food rations and medical care for some of Kolkata’s most vulnerable families.  Not only are the families very grateful but also my colleagues, who hate to turn away genuinely desperate families.  Almost all Tiljala SHED’s funds are restricted to specific programmes providing education, training and small loans – and they are excellent programmes. But this project enables us to reach out quickly and efficiently to those in immediate and very present need of help.  Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.  PLEASE KEEP SUPPORTING KOLKATA’S MOST VULNERABLE             

Oct 3, 2019

You are transforming lives


On 18th July I asked for donations towards this project - hoping that the donations, plus gift aid and Global Giving's match funding would achieve our target of £10,000. Well, we pretty much did it. And I can't thank you enough.  Please see below the stories of three women who have made a great success of their microloans, funded by you.  For every woman who takes a loan, the whole family benefits.  The children stay in education, eat more nutritious food and avoid early marriage.  The husband and wider family benefit from the uplift in family income and the woman herself enjoys a higher status at home and in the community. Even domestic violence is reduced.  And best of all, the loan is repaid in full with a little interest and can then be loaned out to another woman. So your generosity keeps on giving time and again.  This project is enormously popular amongst these vulnerable communities and we really want to keep expanding it until every family in Kolkata's railway and canalside squatters has had an opportunity. So please keep supporting them!

Ruksana lives with her family at Mir Meher Ali Lane canal squatter settlement at Tangra. Her husband is a furniture polisher and her five children are all studying. Two are in a hostel and the other three are studying in a local school. Two of her children are attending our educational centre.

Ruksana was an introvert and kept to herself but after she started attending the community meetings organised by Tiljala SHED her inhabitations and actively started participating in all project related activities.

Initially she took a loan of twenty thousand from Tiljala SHED to support her husband to buy new materials for polishing. She dutifully paid back her loan amount in time. She took a second time loan of 30 thousand rupees and invested the loan amount to buy unstitched dress material and started vending it door-to-door. She is conscientious in her work and is doing quite well in her business. We wish her success in her venture.

Jasmin is 26 and lives beside the Topsia canal settlement with her family. She has one son and one daughter. Her husband Saidul works at the leather complex as labourer. Both her children are studying in Topsia Primary School and attends our coaching class at Topsia community centre.

Jasmin could not complete her studies because she came from a rather large family and her parents could not support her education. Her parents decided to marry her off to Saidul at an early age.

Jasmin wanted to do something because the income of her husband was not sufficient to meet the family expenses. She joined the cutting and stitching classes and after one year she learned tailoring. She has transformed herself into as an entrepreneur. She took a loan of twenty thousand from Tiljala SHED and set up a small tailoring unit in her hut. She stitches clothes for women of the area and even keeps different qualities of cloth which she also sells from her outlet. Slowly but steadily her business is prospering and now her average income is around six thousand per month. (£70)

Now she can contribute towards the family expenses. She returned the original loan amount in seven months. Recently she took another loan of thirty thousand and invested in her business. She is confident that the income will go up and she can improve her quality of life in future. The funds raised through Global Giving platform has made a considerable impact in the lives of Jasmin and her family. She is indebted to the organization for the support she received in time.

Shankari is a 30 year old lady residing at Topsia canal side squatter settlement. Her husband Mahadev   is a fishmonger. She has one daughter. Her husband income was not sufficient to meet ends so Shankari decided to start a business of selling health products and cosmetics from door to door.

She took fifteen thousand loan from Tiljala SHED on 21.06.2017. After taking loan she effectively managed her business. After one year she decided to start sari selling with health product from door to door.

So, she took second time loan of Rs.20,000 from Tiljala SHED on 07.08.18. Her income was increased and her confidence has grown considerably. She returned the loan amount and applied for the third time. 

She once again took a loan of Rs.30,000 from Tiljala SHED on 22.06.19. Now her income has doubled and she wants to further expand her business in the near future. She regularly meets her commitment towards repayment of the loan amount. Three months ago, she started her Life insurance Policy for her husband. 

We all feel that she will do well in life because she is way ahead than other working woman of that area.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

How are these loans organised?
Applicants for loans under the Livelihood programme all come from the very poorest section of society. They live in the desperately poor areas of central Kolkata which Tiljala SHED has supported for many years. All the beneficiaries are women, although many, like Rehana, may take the loan to enhance or support their husband’s business. Each beneficiary is screened to ensure they are truly in need and living below the poverty line. Applicants form small groups of 4 or 5 women, CIGs (Credit Interest Groups) which then work together to support and encourage one another and also to take responsibility collectively forone another’s repayments.  A condition of taking a loan under this scheme is that the children must remain in education and that the beneficiary must have a bank account and develop a habit of saving.  This way they are protecting their future.

 Why is this scheme so successful?

  • It is run by and for women.
  • The CIG structure means that potential beneficiaries are selected by friends and neighbours who know them well.
  • Tiljala SHED provides business training and support
  • Because T Shed is a charitable organisation and not a bank, this scheme is run entirely on humanitarian grounds. If a crisis occurs – and amongst the very poor an illness in the family can cause a severe financial crisis – the loan repayments are rescheduled and sometimes even forgiven altogether. Even so the overall repayment rate is always very high.

What are the main positive outcomes/impact?

  • The women are empowered to build a business and become financially secure
  • Across the scheme women report much reduced levels of domestic abuse
  • The children remain in education and thus increase their own chances of a better future
  • Families who have lived for generations in illegal shelters beside the railways and open sewers are now planning to move into proper housing and to put their children through a good education

This scheme is three and a half years old.  It started with a fundraising Quiz Night in December 2015. That evening raised the seed funding which led to the first 80 beneficiaries receiving loans in June 2016.  Since thenover £100,000 has been disbursed to nearly 500 beneficiaries. Of those, 142 are former rag pickers (the lowest of the low – women who fed their children by collecting other people’s waste and selling it on to dealers). The rest were classed as ultra-poor (not rag pickers, but from extremely vulnerable families and living in the same illegal makeshift shelters). None of the beneficiaries are in any useful way literate – and yet 74% have increased their family income through becoming entrepreneurs.

Oct 1, 2019

Please help these two to continue their education


You’ll read below reports from Kolkata about two of our students who are on the brink of completing their school education and who want to continue their studies. This is a huge challenge for them and their very poor families. Financial pressure drives youngsters to give up on education and start work.  Both Papiya and Gopal have disabled fathers and mothers who have been forced to become maidservants in order to make ends meet.  This is a distressingly common scenario. Illiterate men take on labouring jobs which eventually leave them crippled, and their illiterate wives end up as domestic helpers for tiny and unreliable salaries. Papia and Gopal desperately need your help so that they can support their families and avoid the fate of their parents.

PAPIYA is 18 and lives resides in a single room with her family. Her father works as a labourer but as he is handicapped he is not paid proper wages. Her mother works as a maidservant, very exploitative low paid work. She has one brother who dropped out of studies after completing his year 10 examinations. He now works as a labourer for an entrepreneur who rents out sound boxes and mike.

Papiya will be sitting her Class XII examinations next year but desperately needs educational support to continue with her studies.  This is a vulnerable moment for her: many girls complete school and then end up married off without continuing to higher education. With a degree she will truly be able to lift herself and her family out of poverty.


GOPAL is also 18. His father is disabled and cannot work properly. His mother works as a maid servant. He has two brothers and one sister.

Gopal is studying in class XII and will be appearing for examinations. His brother and sisters are all studying this puts a lot of financial pressure on the family finances . Gopal works in a catering company to augment family income. The money he earns is spent on his education .If he receives any support this will go a long way towards mitigating financial pressure .He is very keen to continue with his studies  and is also very ambitious.

The families in these two case studies are truly in need, as you’ll read.  But despite this they are determined that the children will stay in education.  This project provides the necessary support to ensure children from Kindergarten upwards are encouraged to stay in education. Every day we run after school classes in our Community Centres where the children come for remedial help with schoolwork. They have computer classes, singing lessons, homework support, sport, drama, nutritious snacks, occasional excursions and health care.  The parents are engaged too: they are almost all illiterate themselves but they understand the importance of education and are encouraged to see the big picture and not to marry their daughters off early or withdraw their sons from school to send them to work.  

Just £11 a month keeps a child like Papiya or Gopal in education.

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