Arjina is 32 years old. She is a rag picker by profession and stays in one of the pavements near ESI Hospital. There are five members in the family (2 daughters + 1 son). All the members of the family stay near ESI hospital on the pavements under very extreme conditions.
Her elder daughter studies in Class IV and her younger daughter studies in Class II. Her son studies in Kindergarten. Arjina and her husband work together as a rag picker. They earn around Rs.150 to 200 per day. But this income is not enough for running the household expenses. Sometimes the family goes to bed without food. She took Rs.20,000 as a loan Dated on 05.05.18 from Tiljala SHED alternative livelihood program. She sells detergent powder and most of her income comes from rag picking. She repaid Rs.16,000 and the rest Rs.4,000 is due.
After the lockdown and covid pandemic situation her earning has drastically reduced to Rs.50 to 100 a day. They sleep in an open pavement. During the rainy season, the conditions become very difficult as they sleep under a tarpaulin. Local goons and police are a daily harassment for this family. The young girls do not have any security. The local political goons drink alcohol nearby their temporary makeshift structure and takes away water which is being stored for the family drinking purpose. Since they are basically on the footpath, diseases are more prevalent among them. Diarrhoea, Malaria, High Fever, Coughing are regular problems and found in almost all the homes. Previous 2020 lockdown to now June 2021 she cannot repay. Her situation is very bad. After the last year pandemic things started getting little better from this year February 2021 and she was in regular contact with our livelihood team and attended all the group meetings. But after the second wave of the Covid the state government announced lockdown from April 2021 and she again had to suffer the same situation like last year.
She is hopeful that she will revive her income once the lockdown is eased, and situation becomes normal. She is committed to transform her life through her hard work and dedication.
There are many beneficiries like Arjina who have been struggling because of the pandemic situation. The income has gone down to almost Nil and with little support from government and NGOs they are able to survive. As soon as the pandemic situation gets better she will revive her financial condition back to normal. Tiljala SHED has been assisting these families during the pandemic and we have organised Emergency Food Distribution for such families who have suffered the most during the pandemic.
Livelihoods were the first casualty of India’s lockdown. The informal sector – street vendors, rickshaw drivers, domestic helpers, beggars, rag pickers, tailors and all those who work for a daily wage – were suddenly unable to work. Most of the women on this project were among this group. Fledgling businesses failed and the loans taken out were used to feed hungry families or pay medical bills. Fortunately for these women the loans came from you, administered by a humanitarian NGO, Tiljala SHED. Repayments have been forgiven or delayed.
In the report below, you’ll see how the programme is picking up again and more loans are being administered. It is now more important than ever that our beneficiaries can set up or build their small businesses and become self-sufficient. We continue to insist that the children remain in education as a condition of joining the programme, so that the next generation is even more resilient.
A report from the field:
Livelihood Programme Report for The Month Of October to December 2020
The livelihood had 16 trainings as per their quarterly plan (Oct to Dec 2020) but could do only 8 trainings during this period. The planned activities got affected due to the huge fire disaster that took place on the 10th of November 2020 at Topsia, one of our target areas where we work with our beneficiaries. Many of our beneficiaries and other poor population residing along the canal side in squatters were severely affected as all their belongings burnt into ashes. The people could only save their lives. Many of the Tiljala Shed staff including the Livelihood program staff were involved in relief work to these fire victims. As it is they were mostly hit by the Pandemic Covid 19 and super cyclone Amphan which had shaken them financially leaving them without any source of income. There were lot of distribution of the essential things done trying to bring them back to their normal lives.
Altogether 8 trainings were done on CIG, core group members on the process of identifying new and old beneficiaries and loan approval process (standard operating procedure).
In these meetings there were discussions about repayment of loan and disbursement of new loan to old beneficiaries. Beneficiaries requested for more time to be given to them for repaying the loan amount as they are struggling for their daily bread. People have lost their job and many had loss in business which they were doing due to Covid 19. The livelihood team has shown some leniency by allowing them to repay in small amount of the monthly installment as and when they are able to so that they can repay their debts.
A donation of £250 is enough to help a destitute woman set up a small business, to give her financial power and the ability to support her family.
When I wrote to you back in July, I reported that our normal programmes, including this livelihood programme, had stalled. We were dealing with India’s COVID crisis and relief from hunger was our top priority. I also told you how our vehicle had fallen apart under the strain of carrying so much weight of rice, dal, cooking oil and so on. Well I am delighted to report that our marvellous team reached around 35,000 people with vital food rations over the lockdown period. And also, thanks to generous donors through GlobalGiving, the vehicle has been repaired and is now fully roadworthy again.
More good news is that many of our beneficiaries have come forward asking for new loans so that they can start up new businesses or revive an old one. And because of your generosity, the funds raised last year are now ready to be disbursed. Before that, though, we have launched a training programme helping the women with business skills, a little bit of bookkeeping and also helping them to identify what businesses are most appropriate for each area.
The scheme operates through a co-operative system, where a group of women, often friends and neighbours, will form a CIG or credit interest group. Each woman takes her own loan, but the group becomes severally responsible for repayment. We have found the system works very well and we routinely have a 98% repayment rate.
Conditions of the loans include an undertaking to keep the children in education and also to start a savings account. This gives the family some financial resilience.
I’m looking forward to reporting back to you what businesses these women set up and how they are faring. Meanwhile, thank you as ever for your amazing generosity.
I last reported on this project on 24th March just as country after country around the world was going into lockdown, including India.
Overnight, India's informal economy was forced to a halt. The daily labourers, rickshaw drivers, street vendors, domestic helpers, beggars and ragpickers found themselves unable to earn the daily wage that fed themselves and their families. Starvation was only days away for many. Vast numbers of migrant workers lost their jobs in the city and headed home to their villages, many on foot as public transport stopped. The news media reported tragic tales of people collapsing and dying on marathon journeys.
Tiljala SHED's target beneficiaries are exactly such people. Swiftly Tiljala SHED's staff was reduced to the few who lived close enough to reach the target communities and an emergency office was set up in T SHED's Beauty Training Parlour. We could no longer run this livelihood programme but instead we needed to ensure all these beneficiaries and their families were well and able to eat.
Donations began to roll in from local philanthropic groups. Sacks of rice, lentils, flour, onions, biscuits, masks, gloves, hand sanitiser. We set up fundraising pages at GiveIndia and here on GlobalGiving. Support began to roll in and our amazing staff rolled up their sleeves and got to work. Since early April Tiljala SHED has distributed food aid to well over 30,000 people. The team is exhausted but they are doing an incredible job. Crowds of destitute people line to alley way beside the emergency office begging for help. Staff take names, distribute coupons, purchase vast quantities of supplies, package it for individual families and then distribute. All through the hottest time of year, through Ramadan and now through the monsoon.
And when this is all over, we need to regroup, and most importantly to get these families back in their feet they will desperately need the microloans from this project, so that they can start up their businesses again, buy stock, repair rickshaws etc.
Tiljala SHED itself is also going to need institutional support: our immediate crisis is the vehicle. Our 12 year old van is finally worn out. Without it we cannot bring the aid to people who still desperately need it, so please consider today a donation towards replacing the van. We also still badly need donations for emergency food relief
I was in Kolkata in January, making my annual visit to the projects and meeting the beneficiaries. This is very important to me because I need to know that your donations are being well spent and that they have real impact.
On this day I was very much looking forward to meeting Rehana - one of the beneficiaries who has really turned her life around. But I was not expecting this. Here is an extract from my diary that day..
"Then the BDS (Livelihood Programme) women started to arrive. It became immediately clear that one of them, Rehana, was very sick. She is pregnant but has been bleeding for some time. She had been to the hospital and was told she urgently needs to be admitted. But her husband has run off with another woman and there is no one to take care of the children if she goes into hospital. Rehana is one of the stars of the livelihood project. She started by buying a cycle rickshaw and then bought another 9. She then sold them all and set up a godown (warehouse) for collecting and sorting waste from the ragpickers. She became pregnant with her 3rd child and her husband then started an affair. He and the girlfriend have absconded with most of the assets she had accumulated. The godown is not functioning as she is ill and she is very worried about how she will repay the money she owes. She is a fine businesswoman and entrepreneur, but life has knocked her. She says “When I get well I can restart the business” and I’m sure she can. While we were there she contacted her mother who can come and take care of her two children while she is in hospital. A member of staff will accompany her to the hospital and ensure that her bills are covered by the Emergency Food and Medicine budget. I wrote this as I sat there “I came expecting one kind of story but I got another. This is real life. I want to tell positive stories of redemption but life is untidy and amongst such vulnerable groups, very messy indeed.” But thanks to Tiljala SHED, Rehana stands a good chance of getting her life back on track."
Rehana duly went into the hospital where she stayed a few days. She lost the baby sadly. I saw her again about a week later and she was so much better. She was full of smiles and tears - thanking us (you, the donors) for helping her. She was positive about getting back to her business and moving on with her life. Tiljala SHED will relax the repayment terms of her loan whilst she restarts the business.
Thanks to Tiljala SHED and to the generosity of people like you, vulnerable women like Rehana have the opportunity to make a success of their lives. She'll be fine and is probably better off without the duplicitous husband.
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