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A Trust Group in India: The Most Marginalized Women Can Be Reached

By Lydia Baldridge Meier

It is refreshing to me that there has been a lot of discussion recently about economic and social empowerment of people living in poverty. Between the report on the Millennium Development Goals progress and the Clinton Global Initiative in New York City in September, it seems the world’s most engaged global leaders are taking notice of the need to alleviate global poverty.

The Pudhiya Padhai Trust Group in Chennai, India helped 19 women grow from outcasts to family providers.

Today, there is a strong consensus among leaders and experts alike that poverty eradication efforts should center around women. Opportunity International’s work in India is doing just that. The story below illustrates how providing financial access to women helps expand access to education, reduce poverty, and elevate women’s roles in their community.

In India’s caste-oriented society, to be a “gypsy” is to be an outcast. Because of the social stigma around gypsies’ transient lifestyle, they struggle to be accepted by local communities even if they have been living in one location for decades. As a result, they often live in isolation.

Stella, an Opportunity India loan officer in Chennai, had noticed a number of gypsies in the area in which she works. One day, she struck up a conversation with one of the gypsies and quickly found a community desiring to be accepted and willing to work hard to improve their lives. Stella also discovered their skill at making intricate handcrafted jewelry. She knew that Opportunity India could help them.

She brought together 19 women from the gypsy (Narikuravargal) colony to form ahttp://www.opportunity.org/our-work/trust-groups/Trust Group[/intlink] and provided them with training to improve their business, linked them with another Opportunity client who offered her shop to sell their jewelry, and Opportunity made a loan to them so that they could purchase materials.

Today, the Pudhiya Padhai Trust Group earns on average $8 per day, compared to their previous income of $2.50 per day before they joined Opportunity. They have also saved $800 as a group in an interest-bearing savings account. Three of the participating families can now afford to send their children to school. They are also learning to take better care of their homes and living spaces.

Since starting Pudhiya Padhai, loan officer Stella has formed four more Trust Groups in the local area, and is focused on helping send all 15 of the clients’ children to school viahttp://www.opportunity.org/our-work/where-we-work/microfinance-in-asia/microfinance-in-india/Opportunity India[/intlink]‘s new education loan product. Through Opportunity India’s education finance program, including school proprietor and school fee products, more than 1,000 loans have been made to our Indian clients so far.

The Pudhiya Padhai Trust Group represents just a few of the 65,000 women in Chennai, India who are accessing Opportunity’s microfinance services, expanding businesses and generating income to provide for their children, their families and their communities. For more on our work in India, http://www.opportunity.org/our-work/where-we-work/microfinance-in-asia/microfinance-in-india/click here[/intlink], and visit the blog regularly to read about the impact we are making on the lives of our Indian clients.

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