Touching lives for a better future. For the past 21 years, this motto has guided the activities of Bosco Seva Kendra (BSK), the development arm of the Salesian Province of St. Joseph in Hyderabad, India. From poverty-eradication programs, to sustainable development initiatives, to education and skills training opportunities, BSK strives to arm marginalized children and youth with the tools and knowledge they need to secure a stable livelihood and build a stronger, more resilient society. Now, a specifically-designed micro-lending program is empowering women to take charge of their own futures and build better lives for themselves and their families.
“In impoverished communities in India and around the world, one income often isn’t enough to sustain a family’s most basic needs,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions. “Yet, cultural barriers and inherent gender inequalities mean that girls and women do not have the same access to education as men, and often are discouraged from working outside the home. As a result, far too many families are bound by the chains of poverty with no hope of escape.”
This reality inspired Bosco Seva Kendra’s creation of Mutually Aided Cooperative (MAC) Societies, the express intent of which is to encourage entrepreneurism among women in and around the city of Hyderabad and in the state of Andhra Pradesh.
Under the MAC system, women initially join as members and begin contributing a small amount of savings to a collective fund. After a defined period of time, members qualify for micro-loans -- financed by the collective fund -- which they then use to start their own businesses. At the same time, they have opportunities to participate in skills training workshops on topics such as accounting, computers, inventory management, marketing and others specific to their chosen industries. Once they begin earning income from their businesses, recipients begin repaying their loans, plus interest, to the collective fund.
Today, Bosco Seva Kendra sponsors 24 different MACs throughout 17 districts in Andhra Pradesh. The positive impact on women and families is tangible -- and remarkable.
“I never would have thought I could have started my own business,” says Daara Dhanalakshmi, a 4-year member of the Bosco Swalambana MAC Society. Daara first heard about the MAC through a seminar conducted in her village; once she understood the benefits, she joined immediately. Today, after receiving several low-interest loans (the total of which is less than the equivalent of $500 US), she not only runs a successful coir (coconut fiber) business -- she also employs three workers who now earn their own livable wage.
“We can afford for our children to study well,” says Daara. “I am so grateful to the Society for making our living better and for helping us lead a happy life!”
Mubeena, another MAC Society participant, has transformed her family’s lives thanks to the modest loans she has received. Just three years ago and deeply in debt, she, her husband, her young son and her mother-in-law all toiled as day laborers -- yet still didn’t earn enough to cover basic expenses. Their future looked bleak, until Mubeena heard about MAC Societies and formed one called “Balaji” with ten of her friends.
Now she owns a profitable grocery shop from which she makes enough income to have paid off all of her family’s debts and send her children to school. In fact, she has been so positively affected by her participation in the program that she makes a point to educate others about it, so that they may also build brighter futures for themselves and their children.
There are so many more success stories like Daara’s and Mubeena’s! To read and be inspired by them, please click here.
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