|A thrift and credit meeting in action |
| || This encourages basti women to save regularly so that they have access to credit at low interest rates when they need it. |
How do the poor tide over a crisis? With little or no savings and no social security system in place, most of them turn to better off relatives or employers for help. They are the more fortunate ones. Others mortgage their jewelry and take loans against high rates of interest. This may help them temporarily but in the long run it increases their vulnerability. Focussed group discussions held in the basti revealed that some women were paying as high as much as 84% interest per annum (Rs. 7 per Rs. 100). The formal banking systems do not attract savings of the poor due to the bureaucratic procedures and inflexibility of the banking system. The result is that the poor do not have a buffer against emergencies and are pushed below the poverty line in times of crisis.
Over the years the Hope project has learned that it is not enough to teach women a skill alone. The objective of the thrift and credit program is to reduce dependency on money lenders by developing the habit of saving among poor women, building thrift and credit groups and increasing savings and status of women in the community. The program organizes basti women in groups. These groups will collect the savings and disburse them as loans according to rules determined by the group members.Members are trained in book keeping and bank transaction. For many of them it is the first time they have visited a bank. Currently the program has approximately 400 members. Almost 300 members have taken loans for a variety of purposes such as illness, improvement of housing stock, enterprise development, marriages and disasters.