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Mar 26, 2018

How your donations work for India's poorest

Hena and her cycle van
Hena and her cycle van

Hena is 24. She was born and brought up in the Narkeldanga Canalside Bustee, a strip of makeshift illegal shelters alongside the so-called canal - actually a giant sewer.  Hena has never known fresh running water or a sanitary toilet.

She was born to immigrant parents and, as the oldest daughter, was kept at home to help her mother with her 6 siblings. Married off at 14 years old to Nabis it probably felt like an escape.  Nabis is also from a destitute and illiterate family. He is a van puller, carrying loads between Burrabazar and Sealdah.  They have three children: Suleiman is 13, Sabana is 10 and the youngest, Kurban, is 9.

Hena and her family are absolutely typical of the families in this desperately deprived part of Kolkata.  In June 2017, Hena applied for a Rs10,000 ($150, £112) loan from Tiljala SHED through a CIG*.  She bought a new van for her husband’s business.  Previously Nabis had hired a van every day which ate into his meagre earnings.  Now that the family owns the van, Nabis takes home everything he earns.  Hena herself does paper binding to bring in more income, though it doesn’t amount to more than a few pence per day.

Overall since taking out the loan, the family’s income has increased by 2000 – 3000 per month.  Hena has paid off the loan on time and now only has about 3 more months until they are clear of the debt and the van is theirs.  All three of the children are in school and Hena hopes for a better future for them.

And the Rs10,000 can be loaned out again to another family – or indeed to Hena herself.

By providing Hena and her family with access to credit, with the training and advice she needs to understand and manage the loan, you empowered her to make a difference to her own life and that of her family.

We have found that women like Hena who have financial power suffer less domestic abuse and gain more respect from their husbands and the wider community.  The loan repayment rate for this project stands somewhere between 97 and 98%.   So every donation will be recycled again and again.

Please consider a generous donation today so that we can give opportunity and hope to more women like Hena.  We have a waiting list of over 90 women, screened, approved and just waiting for the funds to come available….

*Credit Interest Group. Lending/borrowing is organised around these community based organisations. Each of the 5 women in the group is responsible for all the others in the group. They support one another and recommend others for loans.  It is a system which works very well indeed. Members of this CIG always repay early every month.

Feb 20, 2018

Lifesaving surgery and glasses to make a living


For little Mariam, the chance of medical help for her rare eye condition was remote.  Her father is a daily labourer earning just 200 rupees a day.  But Mariam was born with a chronic eye infection which is in danger of turning malignant.  Thanks to help from Tiljala SHED's medical fund, supported by you, Mariam was able to travel to Hyderabad for life-saving surgery.

Shahida lives with her 17 year old daughter Shabnam in a dark little room in a tenement in Kolkata's Dara Para slum. Widowed about 5 years ago and abandoned by her three sons Shahida stitches purses made from off cuts of leather from a local factory. She makes about a rupee profit on each purse. But her eyesight is failing and she is afraid that she will no longer be able to earn enough to keep herself and Shabnam. If Shahida cannot work, her daughter would have to leave school without qualifications and take up the same exploitative work. It is Shahida and Shabnam's dearest wish that the girl should complete her education and become qualified to take up useful employment so that she can care for her mother.

This week, thanks to your generosity, Shahida had her eyes tested and was prescribed new glasses. This will enable her to keep working until Shabnam is able to take on the responsibility.

Thank you, as ever, for your generosity

Shahida with her new glasses
Shahida with her new glasses
Feb 12, 2018

How Your Donations Keep Girls Safe

Resham, Child Club leader, future journalist
Resham, Child Club leader, future journalist

63 million women, girls missing due to India's preference for boys

I was shocked at this headline in the Times of India a couple of weeks ago

According to Indian government statistics 63 MILLION girls were either conceived but never born, died as infants or neglected in childhood and died young. I was in Kolkata when I read the headline and had spent the previous day with a wonderful group of young women and girls from a very deprived rag picker community in the Topsia Canalside Squatter camp. It’s a horrible place, a narrow strip of land surrounded on both sides by the putrid waters of one of Kolkata’s canals.  They call them canals, but in truth these are huge open sewers.

Over the decades the rural landless poor have migrated to the city in the hope of making a better living for themselves and their families.  Many end up in illegal shelters on government land like this Topsia encampment. They make a living through rag picking, operating cycle rickshaws or doing exploitative piecework. Illiteracy, disease, poverty, child labour, child marriage, drug and alcohol abuse and domestic violence are common problems across all such deprived communities. 

When I read that appalling headline, I immediately thought of Saika, Resham and their friends in the Topsia Canalside Squatters. What a fantastic bunch of girls. They are members of the Topsia Child Club which is responsible for monitoring the welfare of children in the community. They have been trained by Tiljala Shed through workshops, street theatre and other interventions to recognise where child rights are being violated. They are particularly proud that they called in the right authorities recently to have a child marriage stopped.  They love this work and clearly feel valued and confident. Each one has big ambitions: Saika wants to be a scientist. Resham, the natural leader of this little group, wants to be a journalist. Others want to be teachers, doctors and businesswomen. None of them is interested in getting married yet. This is remarkable. They are all first-generation learners; their mothers are illiterate and probably married in their mid-teens. Tiljala SHED, with the help of all its generous donors, will continue to work for these wonderful inspirational young women, because they are the future for their whole community. Think what a difference those 63 million might have made given the chance.

Your generous donations go towards keeping girls like Saika and Resham in education, protecting them from child marriage, child labour and child abuse and enabling them, in turn, to protect others.  Every penny or cent you donate is used carefully and responsibly.  

Saika.  Wit, Child Club member, future scientist
Saika. Wit, Child Club member, future scientist
Girl Members of the Topsia Child Club
Girl Members of the Topsia Child Club
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