One cannot simply ignore the high spirit of Dalit women when Lutheran World Relief ‘s Asia staff visited their place in Ravidas Tola, one of the sub-villages dominated by schedule castes in Bihar, India. As colorful as their sari clothing, are the miniatures of their individual enterprises that they proudly showed and described to us. Everybody is in bliss. Their emotions are contagious that I cannot help but also feel proud of their little yet significant achievements.
One of the Dalit women who showed off a diorama of success was Anita Devi. She was happy and confident as she shared about the provisional shop that she has. She has had an abundant experience in joining the self-help group in her community.
“My husband and I often fought before because of major financial problems in the family,” the 23-year old Anita shared. Anita’s husband works as a daily wage laborer and his earnings are not sufficient for the basic needs of his family. Anita cannot fully support him, because she is very occupied in household chores and rearing their children. She cannot help her husband in farm work, as she is not physically well to do so.
Thankfully, through LWR Anita has found a great way to support her husband and improve their lives. LWR works with the Integrated Development Foundation (IDF) in Anita’s community to address the problem on steady income by improving their capacity in income generation and increasing their access to credit.
From the self-help group, Anita obtained a small loan amounting to Rs 500.00 ($12.00). This allows her to put up a grocery shop in her community. “I am happy, because I am now earning [income] and help my husband,” Anita relates.
Anita is now earning Rs 1200-1300 per month. With this amount she is able to pay back her loan, save, and put more grocery items in her shop. Most of all, she was able to send all of her four children to school.
Anita is confident that her business will grow; her co-members are all supportive to her shop. They all committed to buy from her. Also, her husband is very supportive not just to the shop but to her participation to the group in general.
Now, Anita’s lifestyle has changed for the better. “My husband and I do not quarrel anymore. When my husband leaves to farm, I go to the shop, and my children go to school,” Anita shared happily.
Just like Anita, 188 more Dalit women assisted by LWR and IDF are now engaged in small enterprises which range from goat- and cow-raising, to farming and vending. With this assistance — together with the technical trainings that these women received — they were able to improve their earnings and start to taste a better a life.
More than the economic benefit that Anita and the rest of these Dalit women had gained, what really impressed me is the new reality that, for once — through LWR — these women are able to come out of their shell and are now proud to show that they are empowered Dalit women, capable of being productive in their society.