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
Ishrat with husband and grandson
Ishrat with husband and grandson

When everything went wrong for Ishrat, she was very lucky that donors like you had supported her through Tiljala SHED’s livelihood programme.  Ishrat was born into a large rag picking family, had no education and was married off at 14. Ishrat and her husband Nasir have 3 children. They run a sack-selling business: they buy old sacks, sort them and then sell them on.  They used to make a profit of about Rs7000 (£78 or USD100) per month which was just enough to feed the family – but they had no way of improving their income without an injection of capital.  So Ishrat approached Tiljala SHED for a loan of Rs15000 to enable them to expand the business.  They rented a godown (warehouse) increased their stock and improved their monthly income by a further Rs3000

Access to financial services and to credit is one of the most effective ways the ultra-poor can help themselves out of the cycle of poverty.  Kolkata’s rag pickers are so poor, though, that normal banks won’t lend them money.  Money lenders charge extortionate interest rates and families can find themselves deep in debt when they cannot repay a loan.  Tiljala SHED’s livelihood programme exists to help the poorest of the poor – not to exploit them.  We understand that things go wrong, people fall sick and need to cover medical costs, businesses don’t always grow as fast as people want.  In Ishrat’s case the godown and all her stock were burned to the ground in December last year.  They need to start all over again.

Ishrat will be given a further loan to help her build up her business again and she is on very relaxed repayment terms.  She wants to pay back what she owes but she does not need the added stress of growing debt.  Mita, Mijanoor and the rest of the team at Tiljala SHED who run this programme with such care and humanity are there to help Ishrat and her family improve their lives.

Thanks to you and other donors Tiljala SHED can give families like Ishrat’s a second chance.  Please consider a further donation today so that we can help more families like Ishrat’s.  There are currently 90 families waiting for small loans.

Since April 2016 £48,000 (USD63,000) has been disbursed to 166 families.  £28,600 has been repaid so far and loaned out again to a further 116 families.  Total 282 families have been helped.  The present recovery rate is 97%.

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Hena and her cycle van
Hena and her cycle van

Hena is 24. She was born and brought up in the Narkeldanga Canalside Bustee, a strip of makeshift illegal shelters alongside the so-called canal - actually a giant sewer.  Hena has never known fresh running water or a sanitary toilet.

She was born to immigrant parents and, as the oldest daughter, was kept at home to help her mother with her 6 siblings. Married off at 14 years old to Nabis it probably felt like an escape.  Nabis is also from a destitute and illiterate family. He is a van puller, carrying loads between Burrabazar and Sealdah.  They have three children: Suleiman is 13, Sabana is 10 and the youngest, Kurban, is 9.

Hena and her family are absolutely typical of the families in this desperately deprived part of Kolkata.  In June 2017, Hena applied for a Rs10,000 ($150, £112) loan from Tiljala SHED through a CIG*.  She bought a new van for her husband’s business.  Previously Nabis had hired a van every day which ate into his meagre earnings.  Now that the family owns the van, Nabis takes home everything he earns.  Hena herself does paper binding to bring in more income, though it doesn’t amount to more than a few pence per day.

Overall since taking out the loan, the family’s income has increased by 2000 – 3000 per month.  Hena has paid off the loan on time and now only has about 3 more months until they are clear of the debt and the van is theirs.  All three of the children are in school and Hena hopes for a better future for them.

And the Rs10,000 can be loaned out again to another family – or indeed to Hena herself.

By providing Hena and her family with access to credit, with the training and advice she needs to understand and manage the loan, you empowered her to make a difference to her own life and that of her family.

We have found that women like Hena who have financial power suffer less domestic abuse and gain more respect from their husbands and the wider community.  The loan repayment rate for this project stands somewhere between 97 and 98%.   So every donation will be recycled again and again.

Please consider a generous donation today so that we can give opportunity and hope to more women like Hena.  We have a waiting list of over 90 women, screened, approved and just waiting for the funds to come available….

*Credit Interest Group. Lending/borrowing is organised around these community based organisations. Each of the 5 women in the group is responsible for all the others in the group. They support one another and recommend others for loans.  It is a system which works very well indeed. Members of this CIG always repay early every month.

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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's shop
Purnima's shop
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Chandra in the workplace
Chandra in the workplace

Chandra is a cobbler by profession.  His workplace is a pavement in Park Circus, Kolkata and he sleeps in a nearby doorway with all his tools, his stock and personal possessions.  His native land is Muzaffarpur, Bihar where his wife, parents, two daughters and a son live. He came to Kolkata in order to find a better livelihood and sends the money he earns home to support his family.   I met Chandra in August 2016. A few weeks earlier he had received Rs.6000/- (USD90) as a conditional grant from Tiljala Shed to grow his existing business.  He showed me some of the new stock he had bought and explained how it would help him increase his earnings.  Before the loan his monthly income was Rs.5000/- but now his income has increased to Rs. 12000/- (USD180) and he  is able to send money to his family through bank transfers.  He is proud that he has recently been able to pay for his older daughter’s marriage and that his younger daughter is currently studying in class V and his son in class VIII.  Because he had repaid his initial loan he was able to take out a further loan of Rs70,000 (USD1100) for his daughter’s marriage – of which there is just Rs20,000 (USD300) outstanding.

His plans are to refund the loan from Tiljala SHED as soon as possible and then apply again for a loan to extend his business.

Chandra’s experience shows how Tiljala SHED’s livelihood programme helps vulnerable people who would not otherwise have access to financial services.  In the first place he was able to use a small investment to grow his business and increase his monthly income, and then he was able to take out another loan for personal use (his daughter’s marriage). 

Once the loan is repaid it can be lent again to someone else through the Revolving Savings Group Fund (RSGF)

Rehana is from an extremely poor family. Her small family business used to take on piecework stitching parts for sandals (chappals).  But two out of her three sewing machines broke down. Her earnings deteriorated completely and it was becoming very difficult for her to run the family. In April 2017, Rehana received a conditional grant from the Revolving Fund and purchased a new machine for herself in order to restart her business. Her business is now running very smoothly and she is earning Rs.2000 to 2500/- (USD30 – 38) per week. Even after spending she is able to save up to Rs1700 (USD26). She is currently refunding her loan from her savings and after paying the whole amount she would like to reapply for the loan from T-SHED. She wants to extend her existing business by investing in additional machines.

Thank you for your generous donations to this livelihood programme.  You are truly helping family after family to raise their living standards, to keep their children in school and to be able to weather a crisis.

Chandra took a $60 loan to grow his business
Chandra took a $60 loan to grow his business
Rehana and her new sewing machine
Rehana and her new sewing machine
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Rizia Bibi
Rizia Bibi

This Wednesday 12th July is GlobalGiving's Bonus Day.

Meet Rizia.  Rizia lives in Kolkata’s Topsia canalside squatter camp. She lives in a shelter with no toilet and no running water: she has to queue twice a day to collect drinking water at one of just two taps for this community of 710 families.  Most of these families have traditionally survived on rag picking – collecting  and sorting  other people’s waste.  But since the introduction of waste compactors in Kolkata, it is much harder to make a living. The aim of this project is to help these vulnerable families establish alternative livelihoods through microfinance.

Last March Rizia took out a Rs10,000 (£120) grant under this livelihood scheme to invest in her sandal (chappal) selling business.  Inside 10 months she had repaid the loan in full; her business is thriving and she told me when I visited her that she is saving up for a bigger home for her household of eight. Like many of the men, Rizia’s husband is disabled through years of backbreaking labour, so he is rarely able to work. As a condition of the grant, Rizia ensures that her children remain in education. When I visited Rizia in February she proudly showed me her bank passbook, her livelihood scheme documentation and the record of the savings that she and other women in her SHG (self-help group) have accumulated.

I think Rizia is magnificent: she is friendly humorous, courageous, optimistic, smart and hard working. She is a leader in her community and fully understands how to make the best of the opportunities that Tiljala SHED and donors like you offer her. There are many more like Rizia… 

And the Rs10,000 grant, fully repaid by Rizia, will be used again and again to help others like Rizia to improve their lives.

On Wednesday at 2 pm BST or 9 am EDT you have an opportunity to make your donation go 40% further. Please set a reminder and make a contribution, however small, to help empower other women like Rizia  

Rizia's repayments
Rizia's repayments
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Organization Information

Tiljala Society for Human and Educational Development

Location: Kolkata, West Bengal - India
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @TiljalaSHED
Project Leader:
Jane Manson
Kolkata, West Bengal India
$44,834 raised of $80,000 goal
 
370 donations
$35,166 to go
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