Life in the upper reaches of the Himalayas is not easy, especially for women. Devastating earthquakes and landslides, rampaging rivers and cloudbursts, raging forest fires and fatal attacks by wild animals are news items that regularly feature in the local newspapers.
Due to the high incidence of outbound migration by able-bodied men, women play a disproportionate part in keeping the local economy running.
Women run households, till land and rear cattle.
Anyone who has had the opportunity to visit Uttarakhand would have surely come across groups of women carrying kilos of fodder and firewood from the forest at dawn or dusk.
Despite the many gifts that nature has bestowed on the region, agricultural productivity has been slowly decreasing due to a number of factors including soil erosion, climate change and deforestation. This has led to a shift from an agri-based rural economy to an economy that relies more on religious tourism and the exploitation of natural resources.
In March 2016, Rang De entered into a discussion with Appropriate Technology India (AT India) — an NGO that was established in the year 1996, with the objective of promoting alternatives to sustenance farming that has historically been practiced in the region. In the year 2005, AT India also promoted a community-based microfinance institution called Ushamath Mahila Mahasangh (UMM).
UMM is registered as a cooperative under the Uttarakhand Self Reliant Cooperative Act 2003 and provides doorstep credit, savings and insurance services to its women members. It operates primarily in rural mountain villages in 5 districts — Rudraprayag, Chamoli, Uttarkashi, Tehri and Pauri Garhwal.
Given the remoteness of the villages that UMM and AT India work in, formal banking services are limited and UMM does a commendable job in the promotion of financial inclusion.
In May 2016, Rang De and UMM entered into a formal partnership that enables Rang De to serve disadvantaged communities in Uttarakhand. With UMM’s support, Rang De will be facilitating credit services to women who require loans for cattle rearing, bee keeping, sericulture, goat rearing etc. With marketing and technical support from AT India, these women borrowers will be able to utilise the loans more effectively in order to rise above their circumstances.
We are currently raising funds for the first set of borrowers from UMM. Do consider lending support, your small investments can empower these hardy women from Uttarakhand.
Tanvi Negi is Senior Manager (Impact and Communications) and heads the New Partners team. Organisations interested in partnering with Rang De can reach out to us at email@example.com