Aamara Biswas-Women helping Women through Nano Finance
In spite of all the progress India has made in different areas, the condition of the poorest of the poor has not changed, and remains as it has been over the centuries. Women who fall into this category constantly struggle for their daily livelihood. Additionally, some have alcoholic husbands. Consequently, household burdens fall in the their hands, forcing them to become the main caretakers of their families. I realized that to help this group, I had to find a way to make these women economically viable.
One of the root causes of their helpless situation is the emergency need of small amounts of money (for food, sickness, education, death, and daily needs, etc.). They cannot go to the government, commercial banks, or to microfinance institutions for their emergency needs. This requires satisfying several rules and regulations. This process is impractical and unhelpful to the poorest of the poor, who have always emergency needs of small loans and when they do not have any savings.
The only option they have is to go to the moneylenders who loan them money with a minimum interest rate of 120% per year. The poor don’t have any choice but to go to the moneylenders when there is a dead body in the house and there is no money to buy wood for the cremation, when there is no money for the medical treatment for the family, when there is no money to buy food for a day, and there is no money to send children to school. Most of the time, they cannot pay back the entire principal in a lump sum which is required by the moneylenders, and therefore, continue to pay interest for the rest of their lives. Sometimes, the situation forces them to take another loan to pay back their previous loan or take another emergency loan.
The idea of Nano Finance came to me when I found out that a young woman was paying 50 rupees interest (monthly) for a loan of 500 rupees that she took from a money lender for her son's medicine. She couldn't get out from the loan unless she managed to pay the entire principal of 500 rupees at a time. This was not possible for her family of five members (husband , wife, two school going children, and her mother) with a joint income of 2000 rupees. I have eye witnessed many such cases with heart breaking stories.
For a few years, I gave interest free small loans to several women from my personal funds for their emergency needs with one condition that they would return the money in one year or help another women with the same money. But at the end of one year they must return the money, so that I could give interest free loans to others in similar situation. Most of the time I didn't know these women. They all returned their loans. As a result, I was convinced of the need of such a project - a project through which small interest free loans could be given to women for their emergency needs ---- the start of Nano Finance.
After working with Basundhara and BISWA (Two Orissa, India based non profit Organizations) for 12 years and developing and implementing many new projects, I decided to start a new organization, Aamara Biswas (Our Trust) which truly could help the poorest of the poor women of the society. Also, the Collector of Sambalpur district (where I was working with BISWA) advised me to register an organization through which I could introduce and implement the Nano Finance concept without any complaint from the public or from the Government. .Aamara Biswas was registered as a non profit charitable trust on December 14, 2007 at the district of Cuttack, state of Orissa to implement the Nano Finance concept in different parts of Orissa and India. My dream is to spread this concept to other parts of the world. Aamara Biswas literally means ."Our Trust". This organization belongs to the women who are the clients and it can only sustain with their trust.