July 3, 2011
That small room at the top of a steep external flight of stairs is where I met Princy, the computer instructor hosted a second gathering when I visited the village of Vember South in India. After the computer students had moved on, a group of about a dozen business owners came into the room: tailors, mechanics, cooks, and shop owners came and sat down to talk about their work.
All these small business owners were members of a Self-Help Group (SHGs) supported by PWRDF through the Churches’ Auxiliary for Social Action (CASA). The SHGs allow the members to come together in solidarity to make decisions about their funds, which are managed in a micro-credit-based system.
The members of the SHG were very positive about their experience, talking for half an hour about the benefits of being part of the group. Before CASA introduced the SHG to Vembar South, money lenders preyed on small business owners, charging exorbitant amounts of interest on loans. They are gone entirely from the village now. The SHG charges only 1% interest, half the bank’s 2%. Higher interest rates are not the only drawback to the banks- the banks won’t allow women to use their services at all.
The SHG is made up mostly of women, and women have no problem borrowing from the SHG. Women’s access to loans has changed life for women and for the community as a whole. Before, women weren’t engaged in business, but now they have found the courage to make money and help their families by making household purchases and paying school fees from their profits.