Women’s Empowerment through Microcredit Loans

Focus area: Women’s Empowerment
Location: Malda District, West Bengal

Background: Women and girls in rural West Bengal suffer from severe gender inequality with few opportunities for education or outside employment.   Many women marry very early and face maltreatment and injustice in their husbands’ homes.

IDRF has partnered with Economic Rural Development Society (ERDS), to nurture underprivileged women’s businesses so they can become economically self-reliant and respected at home and in the community.  ERDS has been working for women’s empowerment for years through a well-rounded microcredit program. This programs identifies relevant gaps in the market, select dedicated women as loan recipients, and provides training and continued monitoring.    We have helped 500 women substantially increase their monthly income by two, three, or even six times, and improve their quality of life.

Rural women receive micro-loans to start enterprises

While IDRF funds the microcredit loans, ERDS provides technical and legal advice, leadership training, and counseling – all free of cost.  These women come from different communities and family situations, but they all share an incredible determination to improve their livelihoods.  With a modest loan of $200 (Rs 10,000), they invest in their husband’s businesses or their own , such as grocery stores, farms, and beauty salons.   95% repay their loans on time and in full.

Taslima’s prospering grocery store

Taslima Molla’s family was in dire straits before she took a loan. Her husband lost his job as a driver when he became sick and his small grocery store was earning just Rs 1,000 per month. The couple could not send their children to school regularly.  With a loan and help from an ERDS self-help group, Taslima learned business skills and began selling gift items at their grocery story. The store’s income tripled and now all of her children are back in school.

When Madhumita De’s husband deserted her, she lost all of her income. But she revived his cosmetics business with the help of an ERDS loan, doubling her earlier monthly income of Rs 1,500. Today, she is economically self-reliant and feels secure for the first time since her husband left.

Madhumita’s revived cosmetics business

Minara Bibi’s husband was the sole earner in her family, and his flower shop was earning only Rs. 1,300 a month. Then Minara used her loan to buy  a sewing machine and started making clothes on contract. She invested the remaining amount in the flower shop.  Both businesses are prospering, and the family now makes Rs. 3,500 to 4,000 each month.

We  have also interwoven the program with support for primary education for children living below the poverty line in rural areas.  Schools funded by IDRF make a special effort to include girls into the education system and  serve as training centers on livelihood skills.

We have been collaborating with ERDS since 2005.   ERDS is recognized by the Credibility Alliance for its excellent service and high standards of accountability.

Reports from the Field

Case Study 2011 to 12 :  This study celebrates the accomplishments of 12 women who have revitalized their families with microcredit loans and business accumen.

Case Study 2012 to 13: Within just six months, these 9 women lifted their families above the poverty line!