Alternative livelihoods for 500 ragpicker families

by Tiljala Society for Human and Educational Development
Alternative livelihoods for 500 ragpicker families
Alternative livelihoods for 500 ragpicker families
Alternative livelihoods for 500 ragpicker families
Alternative livelihoods for 500 ragpicker families
Alternative livelihoods for 500 ragpicker families
Alternative livelihoods for 500 ragpicker families
Alternative livelihoods for 500 ragpicker families
Alternative livelihoods for 500 ragpicker families
Alternative livelihoods for 500 ragpicker families
Alternative livelihoods for 500 ragpicker families
Alternative livelihoods for 500 ragpicker families
Alternative livelihoods for 500 ragpicker families
Bula sells garments from her home
Bula sells garments from her home

Bula is 55 years old. She lives in a slum in central Kolkata, India.  Her husband Naskar was involved in making shoe inners and would supply the products to a local market. His business was doing quite well and the family which consisted of one daughter and one son were living a happy life but tragedy struck her husband. He started experiencing breathlessness and it became critical. He was admitted in a hospital in a serious condition. The doctors tried their best to save him but he passed away due to respiratory failure. The family was now in dire straits as he was the sole earning member. Very soon the family started experiencing financial difficulties..

 Bula needed to do something to support the family. She decided to sell readymade clothes door to door. She needed finance to buy the goods. She approached Tiljala SHED for a loan. We allocated a loan of Rs 20,000.00 to her.

Bula turned out to be a good entrepreneur. Her business flourished. She got her daughter married and her son started working at a city mall.  Her married daughter is now helping her to expand the business. Her son will be getting married in December 2022. Bula has repaid the entire loan amount. Bula continues to sell garments from her home. Her daughter is now very active and the business is doing well.  

Thank you for being part of this story. The £200 loan turned around the dire situation of a vulnerable family. That money was repaid and has gone on to help other families in trouble around Kolkata.    


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Manjila with her sons at home
Manjila with her sons at home

Our most important role at Tiljala SHED is to ensure that all our beneficiaries are able to claim all their entitlements (under the Government of India and the West Bengal Government.) We work hard to ensure that everyone understands their rights and can access them.  Most are illiterate and need a good deal of help with the documentation. We have a tiny team of just one paid staff member and a handful of volunteers from the community who work very hard to help families like Manjila’s…

A case study from our Rights and Entitlements team…


Manjila is 31 years old. She has lived in a shelter on the pavement with her husband (Asgar aged 40 years) since her marriage 11 years ago. Asgar is a daily labourer at Muslim burial ground.

Manjila has 2 sons. One is 10 years old and younger one is 5 years old. Elder son, Manirul, is studying in class VI at Adi Ballygunge School.

This family belongs from ultra poor family because her husband works as a labour and earn very less and he is an alcoholic. Her husband does not contribute for the family. Manjila is a Rag picker and she runs the family with the small amount of money. She earns to 2500-3000 p.m.

With our help Manjila now has the proper documents.  So she has achieved – SASPFUW scheme (a pension for unorganised workers), Swasthya Sathi (health insurance scheme) and the West Bengal Lakshmi Bhandar Social Security Scheme.

Now she is getting Rs500 per month from Government support in her account. With this 500, she runs her family. Manjila cannot support for private tuition fees for her son but she is giving Rs.50/p.m for the coaching fees.

Manirul  has been included for AIKYASHREE SCHEME (W.B. Pre Matric Scholarship -2022-2023), hope fully it will be sanctioned from next year.

It costs just a small amount (about Rs1000 per family) to support our team to get Manjila and her families documents in order, the first step on the way to this little family engaging with mainstream society. 

Thank you

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The typical life story of a girl born into a very poor family in Kolkata would tell how she drops out of school, marries at 18 and bears several children. Living in a single room or a makeshift shelter, she worries daily how she can feed her growing family. She is functionally illiterate so when things get desperate she turns to ragpicking or becoming a maidservant.

We work with girls who want to break this narrative and this cycle of poverty. 

Raushan is 23. Her mother died when she was a child. She lives in a single room with her father, a tailor, and her brother and sister. Both siblings dropped out of school when their mother died and they are now on low wages as shop assistants. Raushan fought to stay in education and even went to college. When Tiljala SHED offered a 6 month vocational course in hair and beauty she jumped at the opportunity and has set up her own business as a beautician.  She found she had a talent for make-up and hairdressing and is also a talented henna artist. She is in great demand for weddings.

Many girls do this kind of work, but it is not well paid. So Raushan decided to expand her business: she took a Rs20,000 loan (£200) from Tiljala SHED's Livelihood Programme and bought new equipment and products and has also started training other girls.

When she first started her income was around Rs6000 per month, but now she earns at least Rs20,000. She repaid the original loan very quickly and is now in the process of applying for a second loan so that she can expand her business further. 

We are so proud of Raushan: she is a talented and determined girl who is an inspiration to other young women. We are also proud that we were able to provide her with the initial vocational skills and then the necessary investment to build her business.

Now - if she wants to - she can marry. She is financially independent.

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Meet Shila. She lives with her husband and her son Rohit near the Sealdah railway Colony in central Kolkata, India.  Her daughter married and left the family home three years ago. Shila and her family are very poor, but they are also hard working and determined to improve their lives. Rohit is in class XI: he is committed to staying at school and going on to college. Shila’s husband is a driver and earns about $132 a month. Shila used to work in a tailor’s shop and earned $2.65 a day. Life was a struggle.

But when Tiljala SHED established its Alternative Livelihood programme in 2016 Shila came forward for a loan and borrowed Rs15000 ($200) to buy a sewing machine. She set up her own tailoring business and immediately her daily income doubled.

She applied for and received a further Rs20,000 ($265) in 2020 in order to purchase stock and expand her business, which is now thriving. Shila has repaid all the funds she borrowed and has even been able to purchase an apartment for Rs15 lakh ($20,000). She is supporting her son’s education and is even able to build up her savings.

My colleagues say of Shila “She is a very enterprising woman” and “She is a good leader and helps us with collecting the loans”

Shila is an inspiration and a guide for other women who want to help their families by setting up a small business. And it is through your generosity that we can continue to extend this livelihood support to more and more women.

USD265 helps a destitute woman launch a small business. Once the loan is repaid it can be lent again and again.

Thank you for your generous support

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Livelihood CIG Meeting Sept 2021
Livelihood CIG Meeting Sept 2021

Over the past 5 years Tiljala SHED’s livelihood programme has helped lift up 630 families in some of Kolkata’s worst slums by making small business loans to vulnerable women and supporting them through regular training. The women apply for loans in small groups (Credit Interest Groups or CIGs) of around 4 individuals. Each woman sets up her own business but the whole group is responsible for applying for and repaying the loans. The recovered loans are then redeployed to other CIGs. This scheme has worked very well, helping many families out of extreme poverty and enabling them to keep their children in education (rather than child labour or early marriage). The women have been incredibly resourceful and many have been able to pay private school fees or invest their earnings in expanding their businesses. When I visit the field and meet the families I sense that this programme has injected a huge amount of energy and hope into the community.

In previous reports you can read the individual stories of many of our beneficiaries. Since the start of the pandemic everything changed. Not only were these women largely unable to continue their businesses (lockdown prevented anyone from going onto the streets) but also their husbands lost their incomes.  Tiljala SHED had to switch almost overnight to relief work. All loan repayments were put on hold. No new loans were disbursed – and Tiljala SHED’s staff turned their efforts to sourcing food and medical supplies and then distributing ration packs across large swathes of central Kolkata. We distributed food parcels to 6500 families in 2020 and a further 6500 in 2021.  It has been an enormous effort and all undertaken by a small group of staff and volunteers who were willing and able to take on this huge task. I am so proud of all of them.

And now that India has come through the worst of the current wave of COVID infection and the economy is up and running again, we have restarted the livelihood programme, conducting training sessions across all four communities. Loan repayments have started coming in again as our beneficiaries have revived their businesses and we are looking forward to kickstarting the programme fully in 2022.

Children welcome of course
Children welcome of course

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Organization Information

Tiljala Society for Human and Educational Development

Location: Kolkata, West Bengal - India
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @TiljalaSHED
Project Leader:
Jane Manson
Kolkata , West Bengal India
$45,746 raised of $80,000 goal
383 donations
$34,254 to go
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