Dec 17, 2019

Zeenat is studying Law at University


Zeenat was one of the first girls enrolled in this project in 2016. She was living in a tiny single room in the slum with her mother and younger brother. Her parents are divorced so her mother, a saleswoman, supports her family on just £30 (or $40) a month.

Many girls in Zeenat’s position would have found themselves married off in their early teens, practically illiterate, poor and destined to a life of drudgery and childbearing. But Zeenat and her mother clearly had different ideas. Zeenat, against the odds, remained in school. We met her when she was in class XII and about to leave school. She very much wanted to go on to university but needed the financial support to do so. 3 years on she is studying Law at Calcutta University. She is doing well, having passed every semester and wants to become a barrister.

Zeenat is unusual in her ambition and imagination and we were very happy to take her on. Thanks to your generosity Zeenat has every chance of changing her destiny and perhaps changing many lives for the better through her career. It is rare for girls from this kind of background to step out of the slum in this way and we are so proud of her.

Your donations cover the cost of fees, books, stationery, travel, nutritional supplements, medical aid and other incidentals. It makes the difference between continuing her education or abandoning her dreams.

Thank you for making this possible. 


A note: You will have heard from Global Giving that there is a problem disbursing your donations to the project. This is beause all Global Giving's disbursements to Indian projects have been held up at government level.  I am working on a solution which will unblock the funds and get your donations safely where they need to go. Meanwhile, the project is moving forward as we always aim to keep a modest cushion of funds for just this eventuality. 

Thank you for your patience. 

Zeenat's 5th semester results
Zeenat's 5th semester results
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.

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