Since early 2013, Pratigya has started to roll out a programme of micro-finance loans through our network of Jogini committees.
These small loans, offered at low ratess of interest and with favourable repayment schedules, enable groups of Jogini and Dalit women to work together to start small businesses. So far, six businesses have been initiated including two chili businesses, two selling rice, and two selling vegetables and fruit respectively. Four of these are fully underway, and two businesses are still under development pending pruchase of equipment or premises.
For the chili business, the loans were used to purchase electrical chili grinding machines, as well as to construct premises for the businesses. The business owners either purchase chilis wholesale to grind into chili powder for re-sale, or individual customers may bring their own chilis to be ground for a fee. In the case of the rice, vegetable and fruit businesses, they operate on a simple model in which the goods are bought wholesale and then sold at a mark-up in markets or in the villages.
All four of the businesses in full operation are already going strong. The rice business is now making enough money to both support its group members, meet the costs of buying new rice supplies each month, and as of the last two months, to begin loan repayments with the requisite interest. One of chili businesses also reached this threshold last month and the vegetable and fruit businesses are both expected to do so in the next month.
Pratigya is thrilled with the success of these businesses so far, and looks forward to using the interest gained on the initial loans to put back into funding further micro-finance loans. By supporting Jogini women to in find alternative means to generate an income for their families, they are able to leave behind the sex work that they formerly used to make a meager living. In addition, gaining the ability to run their own successful business is a step towards renewing dignity and self-confidence.