ERDS is an NGO established in 1982 in a village in West Bengal. The primary objective of the organization is to engage in sustainable development techniques to empower the local rural communities, specifically women and children, through education, children’s development, health, nutrition, women’s leadership trainings, and other such programs.
IDRF Partner Since: 2005
Focus Area: Women’s Empowerment
Location: West Bengal
Project Title: Women Supported Small Business Activities
After years of providing community service, ERDS conducted an assessment of living standard improvements among its supported populations, and found the surprising news that there had been hardly any long-term improvements. ERDS discovered that their donations to supported communities had actually led to dependence rather than self-sufficiency. In a concerted effort to redirect this trend, ERDS turned to microfinance with the financial backing of IDRF.
Pushing against cultural obstacles that make it difficult for rural women to work outside of the household, ERDS went ahead with mobilizing women into small groups, inviting them to gatherings where they were encouraged to speak up, and where their apprehensions were addressed. Since 2010 with the aid of IDRF, ERDS’s microfinance program has been educating women on how to effectively use their money, while also providing them with credit for small business ventures. This program has encouraged the development of women-owned small businesses, and inculcated a practice of saving money.
ERDS’s training has been so successful, that it boasts over a 99% repayment rate across the program’s four years of operation. Through its own resources, ERDS strictly monitors the activities on which the borrowed money is spent by regular visits to the family residences, thus preventing misuse. The families are given advice on how to use the money for maximum gains, and businesses have steadily grown as a result. The program is co-financed by multiple sources, to best ensure its long-term sustainability.
$1,000 can change the lives of three women, by providing them with micro-credit loans to purchase capital needed to start their own small businesses and improve their socio-economic security. IDRF’s funds are directed entirely toward the provision of these loans. Hundreds of women have received the technical skills, confidence, and financial expertise to operate extremely successful small businesses. Many of these women are now primary breadwinners in their families, and the general economic benefits seen by families have decreased initial apprehension and dissolved harmful cultural boundaries.