Because she had started saving, though, Salma was able to provide for herself and her unborn child. She used her very first loan to feed herself and her family, and gave birth to a healthy baby a few months later.
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Salma is a tiny wisp of a woman, easy to miss in a crowd. She is a twenty-six year old domestic worker with four children and says she dreams about their future happiness.
Salma lives in a small hut without running water, and has to wake up very early each morning to go to the communal tap. She is frustrated with the living conditions of the community as a whole. Salma loves to clean and keep things tidy. The neighborhood needs a good scrubbing, she says, and there’s a great need for public toilet facilities.
A few years ago, Salma started to realize that her children were growing up, and she just couldn’t bear the idea of having to go around asking others for money for their marriages. She couldn’t seem to save in the house, and didn’t know what her options were. As luck would have it, she literally stumbled across the Thrift & Credit program. Salma had come to Hope’s R.B. House to learn stitching. Fortunately, she happened to come on a day when a monthly Samrat meeting was taking place in an adjoining room, and had the opportunity to see what she would be a part of if she joined. Some of her neighbors tried to discourage her from joining for fear that Hope would run away with the money, but Salma was not able to save anywhere else for her children’s futures and was willing to take the risk for their sakes. She joined, and hasn’t looked back.
At first, Salma didn’t tell her husband. She was afraid he wouldn’t listen to her perspective and would make her pull out of the program, so she secretly deposited her earnings every month. When she was pregnant with her last child, her husband wasn’t earning. They had no food, and Salma was literally starving. It was a terrible time in her life, a moment, Salma says, she will never forget. Because she had started saving, though, Salma was able to provide for herself and her unborn child. She used her very first loan to feed herself and her family, and gave birth to a healthy baby a few months later.
Salma eventually told her husband about the account and he has started giving her some of his own earnings to deposit. Since she started to save, Salma has been able to take more of an active role and can contribute to her family in brand new ways. When her child was sick, Salma was able to take of him. She has helped her brother buy land and her niece get married.
Salma lives in one of the neediest sections of Nizamuddin. When asked what would be the best way to persuade others to join the program, she exclaimed, “There’s no one left to convince!” In her area of the Basti, nearly all the women have joined the program and are actively saving their money for a better future. Things in the neighborhood have changed, she tells us. “People are happy to have the opportunity to save and take loans.” Salma had never attended a meeting before joining Samrat, and has rarely been asked for opinion. But when her name is called at a Samrat meeting and she is asked to speak, people listen. “It makes me feel important,” she says.