Five years ago Debika and husband found themselves in serious debt due to her husband’s medical bills. He is a bus driver who contracted encephalitis and due to their low income and the lack of government insurance, Debika and her husband incurred 380,000 rupees ($5352) of debt.
At that time, Debika joined a savings and credit women’s group that was being formed by the local NGO called DSS, one of World Neighbors partners in the Terai region of Nepal. She is presently the president of the group and speaks with great enthusiasm about the benefits of the women’s group.
Debika decided to take out a loan from the group and from the cooperative, also organized by DSS. With her loans she opened her own shop, a totally new endeavor for her. She was able to get a lower interest rate on her loan from the cooperative because she is a member of the savings and credit group. She pays 24% interest on the loan from the group and 12% on the loan from the cooperative. The DSS staff makes visits to her, asks her questions and generally provides support so that she will succeed.
She constructed the shop on the land in front of her house. She sells “everything”, she says. You can see the items on her well-built shelves – tea, candy, bread, biscuits, soap, coca-cola (her best selling item), noodles, sugar, rice and lentils. She buys everything at the market in town and brings it to her shop. Sometimes her 14 year old son helps her, but she prefers that he concentrate on his studies.
At this point she has already paid back 280,000 rupees of the total debt. She is able to pay back 10-15,000 rupees a month. Her husband has fully recovered and is back to driving the bus. With their two incomes they are able to make these payments.
When asked what other possibilities she would have had if DSS had not organized this group, she answered that there were no other options. DSS has helped her a lot. They taught her that if you stay idle, you can’t repay your loan.
The women’s group now has 22 members. They save 100 rupees ($1.41) per month per member. When they started, over half of the women could not even write their name. Now everyone can write and sign their name.
Some of the benefits of the shop are that she provides a service to the villagers so that they don’t have to travel very far to get what they need. When the store isn’t busy, she sews clothes, yet another source of income for her family. The income for the shop has raised the standard of living for her family. She was able to buy a refrigerator for the shop.
When she first opened her shop, the wholesalers didn’t want to give her credit. They were afraid she wouldn’t pay. Now she not only gets all the credit she needs, but the same wholesalers suggest new products that they think she should sell. They have even encouraged her to be a wholesaler for some of the smaller shops in nearby villages.
“Because of the women’s group, the level of women’s thinking and analyzing has gone up very much. Before we were almost nothing”, says Debika.
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