Many organisations that work with marginalized sections of rural India face having to make a truly difficult decision at some point in their journey.
Whether it be because of a lack of funds or on successful completion of a particular project, they often have to pull out of an area even if complete development has not been achieved.
A lot of this depends on how an organisation measures empowerment and, more importantly, how far people and communities are sufficiently empowered.
A five hour drive from Nagpur, Maharashtra is Pusad village which used to witness some of the highest rates of farmer suicides in the country. Last month, we met borrowers from Pusad who had availed Rang De loans. Having previously met this community in the aftermath of the floods in Yavatmal, we were moved by the strength and resilience that these women have displayed.
In this very region, over 7,800 loans have been funded by social investors from across the country. These loans have been extended to farmers, petty shop owners, dairy farmers as well as students from low-income communities.
In Pusad, we met Seema (name changed), a former sex-worker.
Seema used to stay in a single room in the red-light district in Pusad, struggling to make ends meet. Four years ago, she availed a Rang De loan to start a wholesale snacks business. Four rounds of assistance from Rang De has helped her reach a stage where she now nets a profit of Rs 800–1,000 each day.
“Earlier, I used to work in other people’s houses. Now I have a bai in my house and employ two labourers,” she proudly told us.
Now, Seema lives with her husband and child in a house that they own.
Pusad, part of Yavatmal, is located in the heart of drought-prone Vidarbha region in Maharashtra. The district accounted for most farmer suicides occurring in Vidarbha in 2015. Recently, there have even been reports of distress caused by demonetisation, further burdening the farmers in the region.
But on visiting Pusad in late December, we noticed that the chronic deprivation and poverty which characterise slums in a place like New Delhi, for instance, are largely absent.
Our aim at Rang De is to enable people from the poorest regions of India in becoming self-sufficient by providing them microcredit, while our partners based in the region provide them with training and non-financial support having their best interests at heart.
In our view, we have largely fulfilled this aim in Pusad. Most of the borrowers we visited were doing well in their business and with the payment of two more installments, many will have successfully completed five loan cycles with Rang De.
Our aim has been to increase access to affordable micro-credit to the poorest regions of the country and work in areas and among groups that do not have access to financial services.
As we have never reached a stage where we have completed five cycles of lending in any region in the country before, we are pleased to see the improvement that a continuous round of funding has enabled in Pusad.
Impact team member Ananya & Harmandeep visited Pusad in December 2016.
Our field partner in the region, SAGRAS, is a registered society that works exclusively with marginalised women and provides them with micro-credit. Do consider contributing toward the capital needs of 100+ women entrepreneurs in Maharashtra.
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