Help Women Living in Poverty in India Start Their Own Businesses
The flow-on effects of the COVID-19 crisis have had a significant impact on women and families living in poverty, with the slowing economy disproportionately impacting rural areas in India. Livelihoods of those already living in poverty have been severely impacted.
- 230 million people in India were pushed below the national minimum wage threshold due to the pandemic.
- 72% of people living below the national poverty line live in rural areas.
- Nearly 1-in-2 employed women in India suffered permanent job losses throughout the pandemic, compared to 1-in-14 men.
How does Opportunity International Australia’s project address this problem?
Access to financial services is at the heart of the fight to end poverty – so much so that in 2021 the Indian Government classified microfinance as an ‘essential service’ through lockdowns.
Opportunity has provided microfinance services in India since 2008, with small loans and financial services to help families work their way out of poverty with dignity. Through small loans families can start or grow their own small businesses and earn the regular incomes they need to provide for their children, and because 98% of loans are repaid and recycled, we are able to help more and more families over time.
Investing in women’s economic empowerment not only helps to create pathways out of poverty, it is also critical in addressing gender inequality and ensuring inclusive economic growth. It is a smart, scalable, and sustainable way to address poverty for generations to come.
$10,000 can enable loans to support 60 entrepreneurs and their families. With an average household of five, that’s 300 people supported on the journey out of poverty.
Rani’s Story – Standing with Me
Rani is 35 and lives in Bihar, India with her husband and three children. Rani’s husband sells clothes from his bicycle but the income he earns is not enough to provide for the family. Determined to create a better life for her children, Rani decided to start a shop selling bangles and accessories.
She had heard about the loans being offered by Opportunity’s program partner in her area and was able to access a small loan to make her business a reality.
When COVID-19 hit, lockdowns meant that Rani could no longer open her shop. Thankfully, repayments on her loan were paused while the shop was closed, so Rani could concentrate on providing for her family.
“I felt very fortunate that I could share my situation and feelings with my support network at the microfinance provider. I was so encouraged to see that their focus is concentrated towards our complete welfare and not on collecting their loan repayments. I received calls from them asking how I am going meeting the basic necessities of life and reassuring me that they would stand with me like a family. This not only boosted my morale, but also uplifted my self-confidence,” says Rani.
Other services and support provided during the pandemic like access to soap and masks, as well as the move to online banking made a significant difference for families like Rani’s living in isolated rural areas. “Who does not rise when they are given this kind of support and all they are doing for us?” Rani says.
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