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Dec 29, 2017

How you have transformed lives through microloans

Shankari shows us her products
Shankari shows us her products

My most recent trip to Kolkata brought yet more positive stories from this great project.  Your donations have been put to work as small loans to Kolkata’s poorest and most marginalised people: rag pickers and the ultra-poor who live in shelters alongside the railways and open sewers in central Kolkata. Since this project began over £16000 has been invested as small loans (of less than £250).  Every loan comes with a story – many of which you have read in my reports over the last 2 years.  

Please consider a special donation this New Year. Every sum donated is loaned to a vulnerable woman who will use it to improve the family income, keep her children in education and even to help her avoid domestic violence. And she will repay the loan which can then be used again and again to help more families. Read on to see how your donation will be spent...

This time I met a group of women who form a CIG (credit interest group). The group members are jointly responsible for loan repayments and also for deciding on who gets new loans.  The members of this CIG all live in the Topsia canalside squatter camp.  Tiljala SHED staff tell me that all these beneficiaries make their repayments early each month (who ever heard of that?)

Here are some of their stories…

Shankari  sells toiletries door to door.  Before she took out a Rs15,000 (£180) loan she used to sell cheap disinfectant.  With the loan she was able to buy much more interesting and high value stock.  She has kept her customer base but has doubled her income.  Shankari’s husband is a fish seller and they live in a shelter together with their 4 year old daughter.  One of the conditions of the loan is that beneficiaries should commit to keeping their children in education.  Well Shankari’s daughter is too young for kindergarten but she is, nevertheless, paying for her to have private tuition.  

She has opened a bank account and manages to save Rs500 9360 per month as well as repaying her loan.

Shankari also told us that she suffers much less domestic violence now that she has economic independence.

Kakoli has run a small tea stall on the edge of the squatter camp by the main road for 10 years. With her loan she was able to diversify and offer her customers paratha and boiled eggs and guguni (pea curry) for breakfast. Besides repaying her loan (early like Shankari) she is saving to buy a house of her own.  She wants another loan after she has repaid this one so that she can start selling evening snacks too.

Purnima also sells tea and snacks.  With her loan she diversified into other products – sweets and biscuits. She too is looking forward to a further loan to be able to grow her business. She proudly told us how her daughter is training to be a nurse and her son has just passed his class 10 exams.

When I meet the beneficiaries I hear stories like this again and again.  I had not expected the loans to provide more than economic benefits, but the social and personal benefits are really significant. These amazing women, given a little training, support and investment can change not only their own lives but those of their families and communities.

They are able to lift themselves out of poverty and aspire to life in mainstream society, marginalised no more.

Kakoli and her tea shop
Kakoli and her tea shop
Purnima
Purnima's shop
Nov 27, 2017

Saving Lal's Eye

Lal on the road to recovery
Lal on the road to recovery

Lal is an extremely vulnerable man. He lives in Auddy Bagan, a very poor slum and an area where Tiljala SHED has worked for many years.  He has learning difficulties and now lives on the streets since his sister threw him out of their home (a single room).

Last month Lal was the victim of bullying. This happens. Because he is so vulnerable he is an easy target for teasing. Somehow Lal's eye was impaled on a nail during this assault.  

A couple of young men, local politicians, saw what happened and saw that Lal needed urgent help.  So they contacted Tiljala SHED. No one in the community has the resources to help and even a visit to a government hospital will lead to unaffordable bills for drugs or other treatment.

Because people like you have donated to this project, there are funds to provide emergency help for people like Lal.

So Lal was given the necesary treatment. His eyesight has been saved and he is being provided with food and continuing medical care until a place can be found for him in a suitable residential home.

Not only is this a relief for Lal, but having available emergency funds is also a relief for Tiljala SHED's staff.  This small organisation runs on a shoestring: the staff are on tiny salaries and many are practically volunteers.  They are deeply affected when these tragedies occur but are unable to give the level of help they would like.  

Thank you very much for your continuing support.

USD45 was all that was needed to help Lal.  Please consider a small regular contribution so others can be helped...

When he first came to us
When he first came to us
Nov 22, 2017

Help Six Determined Girls Change Their Destiny

Girls from the slum attending college
Girls from the slum attending college

Today I met six girls who want a different future for themselves.

I came across them in August 2016 when I was visiting Tiljala SHED. I was invited to go along to a session with final year school girls at the Anjuman Islamic School for Girls, one of very few government schools exclusively for Urdu speaking girls and in a very deprived area of the city. These girls are from families who generally share a single room, no toilet facilities and live a very traditional life: little freedom, no contact with boys and the expectation of early marriage and a life of poverty, drudgery and probably domestic violence.

Our six girls were part of a class of 185 students. Yes really!

Tiljala SHED had invited Sofia to speak to the girls. Sofia was from the same community as these girls but had defied all expectation and had completed school and university and was now on the civil service fast track - unheard of for a muslim girl from the slum.  She spoke eloquently. She looks like a Bollywood star. You could have heard a pin drop.

After her presentation, Shafkat, who runs Tiljala SHED, invited any girls who aspired to follow Sofia's example to come along to Tiljala SHED for free coaching in the run up to their final school exams. The following Sunday 20 girls turned up. A few fell away over the weeks but these six remained.  They all passed their exams and are now at Bhawanipore University in Central Kolkata. Most of their 185 classmates are now married.

Today we got together and I wanted to know how they were getting on. Are they integrating? Do they enjoy the work? What do they want to do after college?

They love the work.They really feel integrated - which is amazing for slum girls in a very middle class environment.Two of them are playing basketball. And they ALL want to sit the civil service exams.

They really really deserve this break - for themselves but also for all the other girls who will follow.

It will cost about £14 a month per girl provide the coaching they will need for this opportunity. The girls have already defied the odds: they have remained in education; they have passed all their school exams - when most children from this background leave school before aged 14; they are not married; they don't have children (I met a 34 year old grandmother and her 6 year old grand daughter today); and they have persuaded their families to let them attend a co-educational institution.They are smashing it!  

Please consider a donation to empower these girls. They have the grit, the intelligence and the determination to win.

A regular donation of £14 could get one of these girls into her dream job.  Among their parents are a tuktuk driver, a maidservant (earning less than £25 a month), an embroiderer who has lost his sight and can no longer work. They support their daughters' ambitions but cannot possibly pay for it.  Can you?

Sofia addresses the girls in Aug 2016
Sofia addresses the girls in Aug 2016
Shafkat invites  girls to come for coaching
Shafkat invites girls to come for coaching
A classroom at the school
A classroom at the school
A class of 185 attentive girls
A class of 185 attentive girls
 
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