News / Asia

Microfinance Gives Voice to Rural Indian Women

Microfinance Gives Voice to Rural Indian Womeni
X
March 12, 2013 5:38 PM
India has a checkered history with microfinance. In 2010, a series of suicides among borrowers’ in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh sparked a nationwide backlash against the industry. VOA New Delhi correspondent Aru Pande has more on how one group is reviving microfinance’s tarnished image by focusing, not on profits, but on promoting gender equality among rural women in the north.

A series of suicides among borrowers’ in India's southern state of Andhra Pradesh two years ago sparked a nationwide backlash against the microfinance industry.

Aru Pande
India has a checkered history with microfinance. In 2010, a series of suicides among borrowers’ in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh sparked a nationwide backlash against the industry. One group is reviving microfinance’s tarnished image by focusing, not on profits, but on promoting gender equality among rural women in the north.

It all started eight years ago with a $1,000 loan to buy buffaloes. Shahnaz Begum, who had never earned a penny in her life, suddenly had a source of income, a way to educate her children and a newfound voice.

“I have confidence now that, being a woman, I can do something,” she said. Shahnaz’s story was unheard of in parts of Haryana state a decade ago.

In India, just 26 percent of women are employed. And, in the villages of Mewat district, women rarely step out of their homes, let alone start their own business.

Shyam Panchal is a mother of four who runs a dairy with the help of a microfinance loan from the non-governmental organization Deepalaya.

“Before, I couldn’t even go to the bank or talk to anyone, ever since I joined Deepalaya, I can talk to anyone,” she said.

T.K. Mathew co-founded Deepalaya in 1971, originally to educate underprivileged children in New Delhi slums. He says decades of work helped him realize that the community’s economic potential is strongly tied to the empowerment of women.

“We said, all right, if you empower the mother, the children will be safe. So, from that point of view, we started interacting with the mothers and we realize they are a great strength. They have faculties, but this is not being utilized,” Mathew said.

Deepalaya or “House of Light” only provides loans to groups of women who must first pool their savings to contribute to the loan. Unlike other lenders more focused on profits, Mathew says Deepalaya's borrowers are charged lower interest rates and given up to 20 months to repay. He says, so far, there have been no defaults among the 900 groups operating in three states.

In a decade, 13,000 women have started 7,000 enterprises that now contribute to a $2 million revolving fund.

Mobena Khan was able to provide her husband with steady employment after buying a horse cart with a microfinance loan. She now sees a difference in the way she is treated at home.

“He [my husband] used to fight with me, now he respects me. Now he talks nicely to me and keeps me happy,” said Khan.

And, for those who mistreat their wives, women like Shahnaz Begum use their earnings to fight domestic violence cases. Some two-thirds of married Indian women fall victim to such abuse.

“If someone tries to harm us, because people try to keep women down, we no longer put up with this injustice," said Begum. "We go wherever we have to go, raise our voices, even file court cases.”

These women also say they now see a different future for their daughters - one that involves an education and employment and not necessarily an early marriage.

You May Like

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Bruce from: D.C.
March 21, 2013 11:18 AM
I would like to strongly endorse VoA coverage of Deepalaya's involvement in the Mewat village. I visited this village and saw first hand how this microfinance project offers opportunity to these women who live without running water or electricity, or other basic needs. Through a translator, the women described before Deepalay got involved, the men would make moonshine and not seek migrant work [the only work available.] Once women became serious in their occupations, the men became motivated.

Child Welfare League of America and Deepalaya partnered through a grant from US Department of State. Delegates from both countries visited programs on an exchange. I can say after 40 years of work in the field of child welfare, Mr. Mathew and his talented staff are inspirational on an international level. Deepalaya is known throught the world for their commitment to educating the marginalized, outreaching to
girls as they believe 'change a girl and you change the family." Now we see how focus on girls can begin to change a whole community.

In the news we learn of India's huge problems with violence against girls and women, child labor, child marriage. While India grows so quickly in so many positive ways, there is no safety net for people in villages or other marginalized populations. Culturally people will struggle to access some level of education for sons, but only expect daughters to marry. When girls become empowered, society changes.

The project in Mewat is only a small part of Deepalaya. I would encourage anyone interested in the welfare of children or community development or education or gender equality or "differently abled" to check on-line Deepalaya.org to see how progressive this organization is... and I would encourage you to consider visiting Deepalaya. Our delegates described the exchange as "life changing."

In closing I want to note how Deepalaya is so different from well known international charitable organizations. There are no huge salaries, not even big ones; there is no expensive advertising. There is a commitment to accountability and transparency, and every dollar is targeted to projects or individual sponsorships as the donor designates. Deepalaya is US tax deductible.


by: Ronna from: New York
March 20, 2013 9:21 PM
On a US - India exchange program focusing on child welfare, we had the opportunity to visit this village and see how Deepalaya enables women to better their lives through entrepeneurship. It is important to note that Deepalaya is the largest NGO in Delhi, highly trusted for their policies of transparency, and that contributes to the success of their microfinance project, unlike other programs that have not been sustainable due to abusive bank practices.
Haryana is a rapidly transforming city with jobs in call centers, modern housing and shopping centers. Deepalaya runs a residential educational program there for children with parents who are unable to care for them.
Nearby are villages without electricity, running water, heat... An Indian film describes it well: 'turn the corner in India and you go back 500 years.' Parents in these villages are farmers, sometimes they migrate to construction sites where they crush rocks, make bricks, carry heavy loads. They have had no opportunity for their own education.
We celebrate International Womens Day this month. Every day is gender equality day at Deepalaya. As Mr. Mathew states in the video, empowering women changes society, and the policy in Deepalaya programs is to provide outreach so girls acquire education. Indigent parents attempt to send their boys to school, but the cultural expectation is that their daughters will marry. Very poor parents may marry off their daughters at age 4 or 5 because they are unable to support them. Every day there is news of horrible cases of domestic abuse, violence against young women, even dowry deaths. Consider sponsoring girl children so they can attend school or contributing to microfinance enterprises through Deepalaya. You can make a difference, and it is tax deductible. See www.Deepalaya.org

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid