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Tsunami Files #15: The Good of the Many

July 31, 2011

By pwrdf

Each month, the thirty women who are members of Dirimath, a “small society” created to help the women improve their economic and social states, gather to hold a private market.  Each woman brings what she has produced: clothes, vegetables, fruits, dried fish, etc.  The society buys the items from the women, then offers them for sale to the other women there.  Someone bringing dried fish will earn 350 rupees (about $3.50) for selling them to the society.  Another woman will buy the fish from the society for 375 rupees (which is still cheaper than the 450 it would cost at the market).  The extra 25 rupees goes into a capital fund that the society can use to give loans to the members.  Dirimath started with 2000 rupees, and has grown that amount to 42,000 over several years.

Dirimath also buys household products in bulk from merchants so members can realize some savings on products like milk powder and soap.  The society tries to have alternatives to name brands- they prefer to sell products made by their members, so they help members to learn to make soap, spices, and other goods that they can sell.

The members of Dirimath, who “pay” 100 rupees when they join into their own savings account with the small society, really value the group.  All the purchases they make from the society can be paid when they have money.  Since the women’s husbands are generally fishermen, who can be at sea for up to two weeks at a stretch, money tends to come in fits and starts.  When their husbands return with the pay from their voyage, the women can pay Dirimath back for the purchases they made while their husbands were away.

The women also benefit from the social interaction of being members of Dirimath.  Danesha explains, “we were on our own at our houses, now we gather in the small society.  We are concerned about each other, and help each other out.”
Dirimath is one of eleven small societies supported by PWRDF partner Savisthri in the Matara district of Sri Lanka after the tsunami.

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