I have always thought myself as a social worker even as a child. I loved helping poor and disabled people. After finishing class 12 in 2004, I was searching a job. I found a job as a volunteer in human right journalism forum with the help of my friend but that was not a job every parents want for their daughter. I was in dilemma but a job was very important to me. My minds were full of questions. Will my parents allow me to do this job? If they refused my opportunities; how will I convinced them? I had to work very far distance from my home and had to visit human rights violations area. At first my parents refused me but finally they also allowed me to work in this forum. I understood my life is the best because I had talked and met many people who were not able to eat food but still they had hope to do something to their country.
People lived in different ways in my village. Some people were poor and suffering from starvation. Government and some of the NGO’s were paying their attention to the people who were suffering from starvation. There is a group of people who had enough food but didn’t have enough money. Government and NGO’s thought that at least they had food to eat but people who had enough food and didn’t have enough money were also suffering. Similarly I did not give any attention to the situation because I also thought the same, but later it touched my heart when my neighbor lost his life due to lack of money.
Mr. Rudra was a good driver. Everyone liked him because he was handsome and had enough money; and whenever villagers were in trouble he helped as he could. Later he became a drunk and wasted his money in wine and alcohol so at last he didn’t have enough money for his treatment and he died from pneumonia. His body looked like a child’s at the end of his life. He begged the villagers for help but no one helped him. Instead of helping some people said, “It will be better for us if he is dead because at least the number of drunks will decrease and our children will not be influenced and involved in alcohol”.
At that time I realized how money is important for our basic needs. After his death his wife worked hard but sometimes she did not have enough food to feed her three children. One day I went to her home and she said, “Maiya (a form of showing love and respect to someone younger) it’s raining a lot and we have only one cup of rice. If the rain does not stop, we will die from starvation.” I was not impressed with the word Maiya but this sentence touched my heart. Her eldest daughter is 12 years old, but she looked older and thinner than her age. Her younger brother’s legs were like our arms and stopped playing with their friends to work in fields. Still now I remember her tears falling like rainfall. She was silent for a while and started laughing because my eyes were also full of tears. Their starvation hurt me, but I was too young to do anything.
This situation forced me to think about people’s financial position. I started to read newspaper and magazines; listened to the radio; talked with my friends, relatives and family members to improve people’s lives, and influence other people to save some money for their future. In my village when people had enough money they spent all in buying luxurious things. So if villagers saved a small amount every month, they could have some money for future needs. Similarly, Mr. Rudra should not have died at the age of 45.
I was listening to the radio; I heard one story from “Jiwan Jyoti” Program about an HIV infected man. He explained how HIV busted his life, family, job, friends and relatives. He was working in one company but his friends and manager insulted him so he left his office. Even his wife and neighbors told him to leave the village. Everyone hated him. This program was run by Saroj Prasad Koirala Memorial Foundation. I thought it would be a good idea if I told his story to our villagers and make a group of people to work. We gathered a group of ten people and made a radio shrota club named Prerana Jiwan Jyoti Radio Listener Club and wrote a letter requesting Martyr Saroj Prasad Koirala Memorial Foundation to send the poster and magazine and to certify our club.
After some months we got a reply. We started our project by holding a meeting. I prepared a draft and presented how we would work. Some of our members were against the draft because they were shy to talk about HIV/AIDS. This was a difficult period for me but I convinced them. We established the club and started working but later it became difficult to run the club without money. I talked with my family, friends and relatives but they did not give any attention to our problems. It was an awareness program but I also wanted to bring change in people’s lives, especially my neighbor’s life which touched my heart.
My father talked about the micro-credit run by Grameen Bank in Nepal. They formed a group of people, collected deposits and lent them to members. My father suggested starting a savings club every month. I saw a dream to change the financial situation of people. I was impressed with this theory but it was difficult to run. We did not have money. How will we give loans? Who will take them? How much to loan? Did we have enough balance? I talked with my sister Sushma about a savings club and she suggested not thinking deeply because she said I was small at that time. She also said, “Our governments have to think about this situation. If you really want to change people’s life, first you should finish your studies and find a job related to this field.”
I was thinking about the saving club so I made a proposal and submitted a copy to the meeting to collect RS.15 every month and rename the club name, “Women’s Savings Club” so that we could use the money whenever we want. Everyone accepted the proposal so it began with depositing fifteen rupees from each of the ten founders every month. Fifteen Nepalese rupees translate to about $0.23 U.S. cents. The first month the money was used to buy pens and ledgers for keeping records. The second, third, and fourth month the money was set-aside for savings. By the sixth month, we increased the monthly deposits to twenty rupees. The first couple of loans we gave were for sums of five hundred rupees, about $7.50 U.S. dollars to Mr. Rudra’s wife to buy seeds and fertilizer for her vegetable farming. These loans were faithfully paid back with interest, equal to the money we deposited per month. This capital is transforms into bigger loans that in turn yield more interest which creates attention to our members. And just like that, a microfinance organization was borne. Over the next few years, our Women’s Savings Club would provide loans for an astonishing 20,000 rupees, about $300. These loans are to educate children and improve businesses and crops. Eventually, every woman in the village would join. Now we collect Rs. 50 per month and have total Rs.80, 000 about $1,200.
While providing loan, we would follow these policies:-
• Loans last six months.
• Installments are paid monthly 2% of total loan.
• Repayment starts one month after the loan.
• The interest rate is 2% for club member and 2.5% for others.
There are many ways to help people. The saving club was my first step to change people’s lives. I succeeded convincing people but the major problem was there. Sometimes we felt insecure to collect the money because we hold meetings in the open place. Unfortunately still now we don’t have office, chairs and tables.
Later in 2008, I got full scholarship from AUW in Bangladesh. Now I am here at Access Academy. Every thing is free of charges and I am getting more than I had expected. I am here but I had promised after finishing my university I will return back to my country and bring change in women’s lives.