Report from Nano-finance by Aamara Biswas
By Ranu Mahanti and Mamata Misra
On Jan 8, 2015, more than 800 women from nearby villages came to a workshop, held in a tent by the roadside in the village Dengapola in Jagatsingpur. The women, dressed colorfully, sat quietly for more than two hours and carefully listened to the speakers. This was perhaps the first workshop where the real workers, coordinators and beneficiaries of the nano-finance loans, were invited to the podium to speak and other invited guests were listeners. How can a loan of mere 500 rupees change someone's life? Coordinator Kamalini Devi, who has distributed two lakh rupees in loans to 700 women, explained with an example. "The first time, we planted cucumbers with 500 rupees which gave us a yield of 9000 rupees. The second time, we spent 1000 rupees in farming eggplant that yielded 16,000 rupees. The third time, we planted watermelons and that brought us 40,000 rupees." Many women reported that along with personal income and savings, there has been an increase in self-confidence, courage, happiness, respect from others, and family peace. One woman explained that family fights would start when the woman asked for money for a necessary family expense and the husband would refuse saying that there was none. Now instead of fights there is peace and laughter. Participation in nano-finance is expanding every year to include many different villages. According to the coordinators, the default is less than 1%. Aamara Biswas has helped more than 8000 women. So what was so unique about Aamara Biswas? How and why Nano finance is so successful and no problem occurs in collecting the loan money? Someone asked. It is all about trust and love! Someone replied simply. Some guests mentioned that when the Nano Finance project was started by giving only Rs 500 loan, they did not believe that it would be successful. It was eye-opening for them to listen to the women of Aamara Biswas. Prof. Nayak from IIT came to the workshop to give a demonstration for the solar system. He and his team are planning to run a Sanitary Napkin unit by solar system.
Status of Sanitary Napkin Unit (Started on February 1, 2015)
By Ranu Mahanti
The unit has already started production. The first two weeks had some problems. Due to the low voltage, we had to buy a stabilizer. Also, due to constant power outage, we had to buy a generator. There were some other minor problems. Luckily, the electrician who takes care of the unit is very good and helpful. His shop is near our unit. In spite of all the initial problems, we have sold (including the order) more than 400 packages. Each package has 8 pads and is sold at 25 rupees to the public. Aamara Biswas gives the package at Rs 23 to the girls when they buy more than 10. They make two rupees per package. We are constantly improving the quality according to the comments we receive from the girls/women. First two weeks were not very productive. The quantity of the production is increasing every day. These are simple machines but they need constant care. We are still learning. From what we hear, the quality is really good. The women are very capable. They work very hard to make this unit run. How different and simple is their thinking compared to the educated population in India or in US. They really don't worry about anything else except making this project successful. They truly feel that it is their unit and it is for them. They have the ownership. I am very comfortable to leave the unit in their hands. There shouldn't be any problem. FYI, we will be able to pay the rent and the salaries of the women even in the first month from the sale. I am still hoping to pay the electricity bill. Still we have a few more days to go to complete one month. I am really proud of the team responsible for running the unit. I leave Odisha on March 13 with great pleasure. Thank you all for your help in different ways for the last 20 years. It is a long journey with constant new experiences and learning.
"Women Helping Women through Nano Finance"