31 kilometres away from Ahmedabad city is Bavla. It is your typical Indian urban village that is caught between the pull and push of urbanisation, identity and rural life. The people in this village certainly seem to be trying to move on with the times; living in low rise apartments, building toilets, having shopping plaza and wearing jeans!
I had the pleasure of meeting three women of this village who have also tried to move with the times. Sunandaben started a business, Sonalben built a toilet and Hassenaben become an entrepreneur.
Sunandabenben is a proud owner of a corner store. At first her shop was a tiny hatch that sold only non-perishable items and some packaged food such as crisps, chocolates, sweets etc. But now the shop has expanded and nearly occupies half of her house! A low interest loan from ShantiLife has made this possible she explains. The shop now holds grains, groceries, packaged good and non-perishable items. Recently she has been able to store milk, milk products and soft drinks that are kept in the pride of the shop – a refrigerator!
Sunandaben’s venture has certainly been successful and she is able to pay her installments from her shop’s profits!
Her husband,a soft drink vendor, proudly announced “Sunanada has also got a part-time job now! She and some of the other women from the neighbourhood go to a local facility to make banana chips!”. Sunanda gives a coy smile when she hears her husband acknowledging her accomplishment. The husband and kids look after the shop while she is at her part-time job. I noticed that while the adults were talking the kids without any assistance handled the shop on their own. So I asked the youngest, a boy, what would he like to be when he grows up. He announced “A policeman”. As the siblings giggled the oldest, a girl, said “I want to be be tailor, sew fancy clothes for women” then the other girl said “I am going to be a beautician and work at a salon!”. While the kids were still giggling Sunandaebn whispers “My part time job will pay for all these dreams!”.
Sonalben is Sunanadaben’s neighbour. When she heard that Sunanda got a low interest loan she decided to take a loan too so that she can build a toilet. She took a loan of Rs.15,000 which she able to pay back all by herself. Sonalben is a seamstress. She has no bathing area yet but she is extremely happy to have a toilet.
Haseenaben is a fierce woman who has recently moved into a 1 bedroom apartment in a newly constructed low rise. She borrowed Rs.15,000 to purchase two sewing machines. Haseenaben makes beautiful sari laces on her sewing machines that she keeps in shops across Bavla. She is of the most punctual installment re-payer, with a very good understanding of economics. She now wants to apply for a second loan to buy a pick up truck for her husband. “My husband is painters” she explains “He has painted everyone’s house in this building. But he has no vehicle to carry all the paint” says she. “So I’d like for him to have a pick-up truck”. Hassenaben’s success borrowing and repaying is recommendable and so is her confidence to borrow money again and this time for her husband!
The empowerment I witnessed this week was support orientated and it started from confidence these women inspired within themselves. Women such as SunandaBen feel confident when supported by their equal halves and even children. It is empowerment when women like SonalBen are able to build a toilet because she wanted one and pay for it by herself. Women like HaseenaBen are already empowered when they are able, and choose to help their husbands out.
Until next time. More stories from Bavla to follow soon.