A PARADIGM SHIFT – Upholding Dignity Of Labour Through Social Investing

April 11, 2019
By Rang De Team
Uphold dignity of labour in India through social investing

As a society, we tend to value certain specific means of livelihood and undermine others. We have a bias towards professions that require intellectual capital, and we downplay other forms of livelihood. The truth is our very survival is dependent on the invisible efforts of millions of people toiling away on farms, in villages, in our own homes! Without our farmers, we would not have food to eat. Without our domestic workers, we would not be able to live our fast-paced lives, fulfilling our ambitions.  

“No work is insignificant. All labour that uplifts humanity has dignity.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

But yes, things are changing and for the better. Over the last eleven years, we have witnessed a shift in attitudes to different forms of livelihood – both among our borrowers in rural areas and our social investors in urban areas. 

Through Rang De, our social investors have actively directed funds to support a diversity of livelihoods that sustain grassroots India. This experience of connecting with and supporting borrowers with their livelihoods has also resulted in a deeper sense of appreciation and value for different livelihood activities. Further social investors have experienced the responsibility with which our borrowers have repaid their loans, deepening regard for our borrowers and the work they do.

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For our borrowers, access to low-cost credit has enabled them to improve the output of their livelihood activities and take greater pride in the work they do. It has allowed them to start new small scale enterprises and improve their own lives. It has also given them hope to stay committed to traditional livelihood activities like farming, weaving, knowing with more confidence that they will be able to sustain themselves.

Take Rekha Ashwal, our borrower from Lakhamandal in Uttarakhand. Rekha took a Rang De loan to purchase a cow, hoping that the income from milk sales would supplement the meager income she and her husband got from their small farm. Rekha has four school-going children, and she was finding it increasingly difficult to support their education costs. Over a year into receiving the loan and purchasing a cow, Rekha managed to use to part of that loan amount to start a little wayside hotel hoping that her husband, who doesn’t work on their farm anymore, might find it engaging.

Most of India’s rural population who are in search of a better standard of living do not have enough education or adequate skills to avail opportunities that are out there. For the few that do migrate to cities and urban areas, most join labour or service industries in an unskilled capacity. So it gives us some comfort that many first time borrowers among our borrower communities choose to avail a loan in order to start a livelihood activity that is meant to diversify their income, from the confines of their homes in villages. And this has worked out excellently for most of them because it provides that little extra income which goes on to make a big difference for their families in the long run.

Rekha’s calculations paid off well, and her monthly income has been steadily rising. Stories like hers reassure us that it is important to trust and believe in the livelihood choices and decisions that women like her, and our borrower communities make. At Rang De, we recognize that there is dignity in all forms of labour. We will continue to strive to enable the diversity of livelihood activities that sustain our borrower communities.

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