The busy fingers of 50 year old Pushparani deftly mesh the wetted leaflets of dried halves of coconut fronds, weaving the mats that would soon become the roof of house or the fence of a garden – a traditional practice is some parts of South India. Spaced conveniently in the long rectangular hut, roofed by the same material that they weave, sit with her equally dextrous colleagues, plaiting frond after frond and stacking the mats in neat arrays. To all appearances, an owner of the outfit might have employed Pushparani and her colleagues to make the mats from coconut fronds, but this time around, she is the employer and her colleagues are the employees.
Weaving coconut fronds was the only skill that this mother of Vinoth,28, and Shalini, 16, knew and did ever since she was 20 years of age, living in their own house with Samithurai, her husband, who had looked after the business as well as the farming in the 2-acre land that they owned. Nevertheless, the sudden demise of her husband left Pushparani lonely and in a great financial strait.
Fortunately, PAT had started forming SHG groups through its Aduthurai branch and was providing microcredit to underprivileged women. She became one of the 18 members of the ‘JESUS’ SHG two years ago. PAT provided with loans sufficient to develop her traditional coconut frond mat business. Her current loan amount is ?25000. As the business improved, she hired her own SHG members and provided them with weaving job on daily wages.
The case of Pushparani is a sparkling illustration of a sustainable credit. A micro loan in the hands of an industrious entrepreneur has not only multiplied in her hands but also provided means of livelihood to others in the community, thus creating a progressive spiral of development.
The golden rays of the early sun streaming down their shoulders, Vijaya and her husband are busy in their Jasmine garden in the Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu, hand plucking the buds of the fragrant jasmine flower that would adorn some beautiful hair the next day. Just two years back, this hard working 35-year-old mother of three was an unskilled labourer in the lush green patch of land in the fertile Kolladam river basin that she owns today. For 11 long years she had sweated and toiled under the scorching sun to earn the daily wages that would sustain their family, always longing for that day when she, hand in hand with her husband Selvam, would toil in their own land.
Vijaya’s journey from wage earner to job creator started nine years back when PAT started providing affordable loans to SHG members through its Tiruppanandhal branch. With her first loan of ? 5000, she started her own dairy business by purchasing a milch cow. Using part of the profit from the sale of milk, she added more animals to her small farm, until the family owned four animals four years back. A few days later, an opportunity arose to help fulfil her long cherished dream. A portion of the land she had worked in was available for purchase. She immediately sold three of her milch animals, took another loan from PAT and paid the three lakhs towards purchasing the 23 cents of land.
She may not be aware that the Persian word jasmine means ‘a gift from God’, but this is what a micro loan from PAT has given Vijaya – the magic of her enterprising hands has turned the availed loan to an asset on which two girls and a boy in their teens will build their future.
Thirty three year old homemaker and farmer, Rajeswari, proudly guides the visitors to the prized banana farm that she and her husband Shankar own in Kurangaduthurai in Thanjavur District. All fenced up with thorny bamboo branches, the one-acre farm, which is a little way off from their home in the village, is the means of livelihood for them and their children, 11 year old Mithun and 8 year old Anushka. Beyond the electric pump set at the gate, there are rows upon rows of plants, their stems slightly bent under the weight of the dark green bunches of the bananas that they bear. With 14 others, Rajeswari too is a member of the TN SHG group managed by the Aduthurai branch of PAT. A client of PAT, she had began with the first loan of ? 5000 7 years ago but has progressed to the current cycle, availing a loan of ?20,000 due to her credit worthiness of having promptly repaid all her previous loans. Over the years, through the cycles of loans made available to her, Rajeswari freed herself from the clutches of informal lenders and by making investments on agriculture, increased the productivity of her farm. The comfortable instalments and the affordable interest having given her aspired financial independence she is now able to comfortably meet the life cycle needs of her family.
It was in the middle of 2000 that Irudhayamary was enrolled at the MGR Nagar CDP centre run by PAT. Her father had died and her mother who worked as a housemaid for their livelihood, wanting to have a good future for their daughter decided to enter her at the PAT day care centre. She was unkempt and undisciplined typical of very many children from the shantytowns of Trichy, but soon everything changed and she found her learning interesting, became organized and by the time she joined the regular school, she had acquired the motivation and discipline to become a good student.
Duly supported by her mother, she is now a final year graduate student in Zoology. Admission to the college had not been difficult since she had secured 80% marks in the 10th grade exam and 74% in the Higher Secondary examinations. She has also undergone other vocational trainings like tailoring, accounting in Tally and has a Diploma in computer applications.
It was an off-school day and Surya, a college student, from Ariyalur district of Tamil Nadu was helping his parents in the 1 acre fertile paddy field that the family owned in the Kotiyal village near the Koladam river. They were working together; spraying nutrients to the foot high rice saplings that would be bent with bunches of golden rice in two months time. Surya had a problem as a school student – try as he may, he could not make his grades in Tamil, English and Math. The 35% that he could achieve was the bare minimum needed for a pass and higher education seemed a distant dream.
PAT, in the meanwhile, had an Education Empowerment Program running in the village where a tutor was available to coach students weak in various subjects during the after school hours in the evening. The decision by Surya’s parents to enrol him in the program was a turning point in his academic life. His academic performance started changing for the better, so much so that when the result of the 10th grade was declared, Surya had scored 91% marks.
Now pursuing his higher education Surya looks back at his school days and says, “I was so weak in my studies that my parents feared for my academic future. But the approach and method of coaching at the centre inspired and motivated me to excel. My capacity for understanding concepts and meanings increased and I ended up with a high first class - good enough to make it to the Higher Secondary education”.
Joining the PAT run Tailoring centre at Thirupanandal came handy to Kalaiselvi, a widow struggling to provide food, clothing and education for her three impoverished children. When she received her certificate three months later, she had acquired the needed skills to both save money by stitching her and children’s clothes as well as earn additional income by making dress for others. The unexpected added achievement in her words was the, “build up of my image in the society” – a remarkable example of women empowerment.