by Sachal Aneja, Communications Officer, ChildFund India
A few years ago, Basanti, 32, and her husband Udhab, could not afford basic necessities for their three children, much less the children’s small desires. The couple, who owned no land, were subsisting in a mud hut in a rural village in India.
Udhab, a daily wage laborer, used to sell wood he cut from a protected forest. Although cutting wood was illegal, Udhab believed it was the only way to feed his family of five, as there were few jobs in the village. The family lived in fear he would be caught and sent to jail.
To protect the family from hunger and exploitation, Basanti courageously started a small business of selling bangles. She would carry a basket of bangles on her head and travel to several villages to sell them in the weekly markets.
“We could manage to buy bangles for only 25 to 45 cents (US), and I used to make consistent efforts to sell what I had. The sale was good but not enough,” says Basanti, recalling the initial days of her business. Because the profit earned was not always sufficient to support the family, Basanti and Udhab had to occasionally borrow from the local moneylenders who charged a high interest fee. Consequently, a large portion of their earnings were eaten away every month.
The family’s situation began to turn around when their 10-year-old daughter, Nilabati, was enrolled in the local ChildFund project and matched with a sponsor to support her education, health and nutritional needs. Basanti became a member of the women’s Self-Help Group that ChildFund helped the village establish. During one of the group meetings, ChildFund educated Basanti and other women about micro-credit and how to access those services. Basanti began to think about expanding her business. Her hopes soared.
“I was excited to learn about the micro-credit support in our village”, says Basanti. As part of the LEEP (Livelihood and Economic Enhancement for the Poor) strategy, ChildFund helps marginalized families like Basanti’s increase their income through investment and support services.
With a recommendation letter from the Self-Help Group, Basanti applied for a loan of US$110, and was approved. She was then able to procure a large variety of bangles that she sold in five weekly village markets. A wider selection of bangles led to a sudden growth in customers. Basanti now earns a profit of US$77, more than triple the US$22 she earned before. A confident Basanti is repaying her loan.
“I feel very happy the way things are changing,” says Basanti. “I am now able to send all my children to school and meet their little wishes. I am now thinking of starting a fancy bangle store in future.”
Udhab also supports his wife in selling bangles to more villages and is looking forward to buying a small piece of land.
“I am very proud of my mother. What we are today is largely because of her efforts,” says an elated Nilabati.
In this small village of rural India, Basanti has become a great example of willpower, dedication and inspiration. She is still found cooking, sweeping, washing dishes and preparing children for school each morning before attending to her business – offering village women a selection of bangles representing the diverse colors of life.
Every day, Basanti works to bring happiness, peace and success to herself, her husband and, most important, her children.