2015 Annual Report

Aamara Biswas (India)

Our Biswas (US)

Women Helping Women through Nano Finance

Annual Report (2014-2015)

 (Reported by Joyasree Mahanti)

 

Dear Friends,

Namaskar!

I can’t thank you enough for your kindness, trust, and support for years in different ways to help me through Aamara Biswas and Our Biswas to work for the women of Odisha who are in extreme needs. As I always mention, the success of each step is due to team effort. I am extremely humbled to be part of this team with you all. The women of Odisha send their gratitude and love for you all. 

On November 9, 2007 the Nano Finance (NF) project was started in Sambalpur district of the state of Odisha. Aamara Biswas (AB) was established on December, 2007 to implement the Nano Finance concept. The main goal of this program is to empower extremely poor women and girls in rural villages and poor urban neighborhoods in the state of Odisha by providing them with access to very small interest free loans of  $10 – 20  with a payback period of a one-full year. The loan is for their emergency needs, children’s education, health care, clean drinking water, and to help them start or expand their own small business.  So they don’t go to the money lenders for getting loans with an annual interest rate of 120% or more.

The following issues will be discussed in this report.

A. Why and How is the Nano Finance project successful?

B. How does Aamara Biswas empower the women?

C. Who is responsible for the existence of Aamara Biswas and the success of Nano    Finance?

D. Sustainability of Aamara Biswas

E. The current and future projects

F. Financial statements

G. Conclusion


 

A. Why and how is the Nano Finance project successful?

  • The nano loan is interest free and only given to women who are in extreme needs. They are responsible for taking/paying loans by themselves. No middle person is involved.
  • The book keeping and loan transactions are very simple and the women are directly involved.
  • The women are capable of returning the small interest free loans without much constrain.
  • They have one year to return the loans and have the option of returning the loans in installments at their convenience. AB does not penalize them if they delay in their payments. AB encourages them to pay back the loans for their benefit and also for the sustainability of the organization.  
  • Under the Nano Finance system, women get access to additional interest free loans under the condition that the previous loans have been paid back in full.
  • AB gives individual loans and re-circulates the returned money to provide loans to other women who are in similar situations or to the same women if they have additional needs after repayment of the existing loan. In some areas the initial invested amount has nearly tripled in seven years.
  • The women understand the benefits and advantages of small loans. Many times the women express that they prefer to take small loans multiple times which they can pay back easily instead of bigger loans which put burdens on them.
  • All the coordinators are selected from the areas where the NF project is implemented with minimum education and get paid by AB. Most of the time the coordinators are selected by the women from the areas where they work for AB.
  • Generally, when women get bigger loans through micro finance institutions or another source, other family members become aware of the loan amount.  In case of nano loans, the women have complete control over the small amount and they solely take decision for using the loan for improving their livelihood. It is easy to keep the small amount as a secret from other family members.  At the end, the entire family is benefitted by this system.

            Susmita Mangaraj, one of the coordinators and a social activist tells:  She has come            across many organizations and involved with many projects in last 18 years. It was           always so difficult to collect money after giving loans. Now, she does not have any           problem with Nano Finance project. The women return their money by themselves without any force. She thinks, it is the love and trust the women have for AB. They             understand the system and how they get benefitted by it.


B. How does Aamara Biswas empower the women?    

Pratima Sahu, the coordinator of Sambalpur district now is in charge of the Western part of Odisha. She on her own has volunteered to take care of one of the most difficult and poor village, Kiakata, of the Anugul district. Every month, she travels in rickshaw, train, bus, and walks to the village to make the Nano Finance project successful. Her love for the organization and desire to help other women who are in extreme poverty is worth mentioning. She herself was in a similar situation in the past. She claims that AB has not only given her livelihood but strength.  It is a great pleasure to see the development in her leadership quality and skill after joining Aamara Biswas. She also travels to Sonepur, another area once a month for NF project.

Pratima tells, AB has given her the opportunity and strength to pursue as a community leader and gives her scope to learn new things every day. She has decided to work for the organization rest of her life.

Itishree Behera, the coordinator of the fisherman’s village expresses how she and the women from her village(s) have come out from the four walls of their house and start their livelihoods by taking loans from AB. She is proud to be part of AB.

Gita Pradhan, the coordinator of Khamara, Anugul district, says AB has brought wealth to her and her friends. By taking small loans multiple times for agriculture, all the women including herself  now  have savings in the bank. She tells that once she has started bringing money to the family, her husband loves her more and there is less fight and argument between them. She strongly encourages women to be financially independent with the help of AB and earn respect from their husbands and other family members. She herself has the experience.

Nirupama Barik, Balikuda, Jagatsingpur district, tells she will always work hard to keep AB alive. She believes that AB is her organization. She has a strong feeling of ownership of the organization. Though she was asked to join politics, she decided to stay with AB. She thinks working for AB is more challenging and worth than politics.

C. Who is responsible for the existence of Aamara Biswas and the success of Nano Finance project?

The coordinators and the women who take/return loans are responsible for the existence of the organization and the success of NF project. We can invest money but if the coordinators do not work ethically or don’t have the desire to help women, the project will fail. This has happened in a few places. The NF system is very simple and can be mismanaged very easily.  When majority of the women are uneducated, the coordinator can take advantage of the situation. She can maintain the books by entering wrong numbers. Also, when a coordinator leaves the organization without giving all the books (with information), it is very difficult for a new coordinator to take over the project. The women loose trust in the system.

The women who take loans from AB are also responsible for the success and expansion of the Nano Finance project and existence of Aamara Biswas. There will be no recirculation of money unless they return their loans. Due to interest free loans, AB does not make any money. So, it is difficult to expand the project without their help. We realize that for any small business to sustain, one has to take the interest free loan several times. We encourage these women to take it five or six times only, so that more women can be helped from the returned loans.

 

AB does not advertise its activities. The women from the nearby areas find it through word of mouth and often come from a distance to take loans. It is difficult to deny, but sometimes we have to. The coordinators try their best to give loans to the women who are really in need. It is easy to give loans to the same women who have a good credit history. But there are others who are in desperate situations and want to improve their livelihoods with the help of AB. AB provides loans with trust and hopes that the women will return the loans for their own and others’ benefit. 

The coordinators are strongly encouraged to give loans after the collection and not to keep money with them. They have limited funds and many women wait for getting loans. During such situation, the coordinators ask the women to choose who needs to get the loan immediately and rest of them can wait for the next collection. Loans are also given on first come first serve basis. In the begining, women always complained about how they could not do anything with such small loans. Now they understand the benefit of small loans and have learnt how to use their small loans to start businesses and other livelihood trades. One woman said that she started a small beetle shop by taking interest free loans from AB. By taking/returning loans multiple times, and using the profit from her beetle shop, she now has a successful grocery store, and is also able to send her children to school. We have many such success stories.

 

D. Sustainability of Aamara Biswas

 

There is a great demand and need for the expansion of the Nano Finance project in different parts of Odisha. Aamara Biswas prefers to expand slowly so that women can understand the value of small loans and the importance of returning the loans. This also teaches them to be unselfish and help other women due to limited funds. Currently, we work in more than 60 villages. AB does not make any money from the projects. Though the coordinators don’t get big salaries, when the project expands, we need more coordinators. Every year, the total salaries of the coordinators are increasing.

Currently, 50% of the salaries is covered by the accrued interest of the corpus fund (Fixed Deposit). In another year, the Balikuda Training/Production center will not depend on donations. The profit from selling the ladies garments will support the rent and the salaries of the sewing teacher.

The Sanitary Napkin Unit which started in February, 2015, will take some time to make profit for the sustainability of the unit. This is not a business venture. Our main purpose is to provide sanitary pads to the girls/women at an affordable cost for the benefit of their health. We are hoping to make some profit after one to two years.

Sustainability of the organization is a major concern to many of us. Of course the organization will continue to sustain until it gets the financial support from the kind donors. Even with donations, if the women don’t have the feeling of ownership and love for the organization, the organization will sustain only for a few years and it will slowly close down.  During my recent visit, I realized how much the women, including the coordinators, love this organization, think of it as their own and feel responsible for its existence. Hopefully with their trust and love, AB will exist for 10 or more years and provide livelihood to many women.  I strongly feel that the sustainability of AB is in the hands of  the women who have benefitted by it.

 

E. The current projects 

i. Nano Finance Project: AB has supported close to 10,000 women through Nano Finance project in more than 60 villages along with some urban areas. After taking loans from AB for farming and small trades, many women now have saving accounts in banks. Currently, AB is working in Sonepur, Anugul, Jagatsingpur, Cuttack, and Sambalpur districts of the state of Odisha, India. 80% loans are taken for improving the livelihood through farming and small businesses. 20% is for health, education, and emergency needs.

ii. Sanitary Napkin Unit:  This started in the village, Dengapola, Jagatsingpur district in February 2015. The unit employs five persons. Though we have the infrastructure and the quality of the pads are really good, still marketing the product takes time. We will have a better statistical report after one year.

iii. Balikuda Training/Production Center:  The center was started in April 2012 to give training to young girls/women for making women’s garments. AB rents a small room for the training purpose. 98 girls have finished their training and started generating income from the sale of the garments. Many women come to the center for using the sewing machines for making garments. AB helps them with the marketing.

iv. Purusottampur Training/Production Center:  In Dec. 2010, Aamara Biswas took over the training/production center which was not functioning due to lack of funding by giving more than $6000 for buying raw materials. This center already had an established infrastructure with several sewing machines and other materials to start the production unit with enough trained girls/women in the village. Currently, the center is running smoothly by giving training and providing livelihood to many women/girls from the surrounding villages. 

v. Drinking Water Filter Project: Aamara Biswas started this project in 2010. Though the women understand the benefit of these filters, still they prefer to spend money for livelihood purpose rather than for buying the filters. Initially, the filters were bought by taking loans strictly for the filters. But getting them to return this loan has been very difficult. We find that the women are always regular in returning their loans if the loans are for livelihood purpose. The incentive is for getting another loan after paying back their previous loan. We have stopped the practice of giving loans specifically for the filters. They have to just buy them. So far 1360 filters have been sold. We buy new filters by re circulating the original invested money. 

 

vi. Workshop:  AB organized a workshop in January 18, 2015, in the eastern part of Odisha (Dengapola, Jagatsinghpur). About 900 women attended the workshop and it was a great success. The coordinators and the women who took loans were the speakers at the workshop. If budget permits, we will have the workshop in the western Odisha (Sambalpur town) in January, 2016.  This workshop gives an opportunity to the women to speak in public about their experience with  AB.

 


F. Financial Statement

From Your Contribution for 2014-15

The following amount was directly transferred from Our Biswas account (USA) to Aamara Biswas account (Odisha, India)

Date                                                    Transfer                                              Receive

May 5, 2014                                        $500                                                    $493

December 2, 2014                               $15000                                              $14990

January 7, 2015                                 $8000                                                  $7990

Total                                                   $23,500                                                  $23,473

 

Expense Details

1. Nano Finance (NF)                                                                                     $6240

2. Workshop                                                                                                     $1660

 3. Sanitary Napkin Unit                                                                                $9280

4. Salaries                                                                                                          $1880

5. Training/Production Unit, Balikuda                                                      $3280

6. Other Expenses

            Travel, Office supplies, Logo design, and furniture                     $740

Grand Total of all Expenses                                                                          $23,080                                                                      

G. Conclusion

I am thrilled with the results and excited to see the progress of each woman even at the smallest level. Very often, women who have been helped by AB tell their success stories with a smile and excitement by holding my hand. During my recent visit, they told me that Aamara Biswas had given them strength and taught them how to stand on their own feet by coming out of four walls. They smile at me with confidence and tell they are not scared of anybody because financially they don’t depend on their husbands any more. Since these women started earning and bringing money for the family, they have gained respect of their husbands and other family members. This is really Women Empowerment! Once they are empowered, changes happen to the family, community, and to the world. 

Submitted by Joyasree (Ranu) Mahanti, Founder of Aamara Biswas and Our Biswas

 

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Joyasree Mahanti,
Jul 26, 2016, 9:47 AM
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