Shanti Life believes innovation is everywhere but empowerment isn’t; yet. Women and children, particularly in underprivileged areas of India, struggle to succeed and realise their dreams through innovation. Shanti Life India Foundation is a social initiative aiming to empower disadvantaged women.

The organisation provides women with business mentoring, financial literacy training and low-interest financing, enabling them to start their business and become financially stable. These women become role models in their communities, inspiring independence in women around them. When loans are paid back they are reinvested into the community so each loan will have multiple beneficiaries. This means each community builds from the ground up, they pull themselves out of poverty and create a sustainable community.

Shanti Life Using Loans to Empower Women

Some very happy beneficiaries.

Maliya Miyana block of the Morbi District, bordering the little Rann of Kutch in Gujarat, India, is in a unique position. The mix of the sea water mingling with sweet runoff, sustain a special type of prawn – the Ginger Prawn. The Azad Fisherwomen’s Organisation provides an umbrella organisation to the community that fishes there. The fishing season lasts three to four months and is dependent on rainfall. This is a true community endeavour, men catch the prawns whilst women dry the prawns, adding value to the produce, negotiate with buyers, manage the repairs to nets and boats, and maintain the household.

In order to fund maintenance and subsistence, traditionally, the women borrow from local agents. This is not a transaction amongst equals, agents exploit them charging high-interest rates and impose monopolistic stipulations that prawns could only be sold to them. Agents also set the purchase price which is set low to increase their own returns. Ultimately the women barely redeem the loan by the time the next season arrives and with that the requirement of a new loan. Thus the debt spiral continues.

Shanti Life studied the particular circumstances of these women; understanding their daily, unending, struggles. They constructed a package to extend credit access to fisherwomen at low-interest rates. In February 2016, the women recounted how the credit access provided by Shanti Life had helped them; the combined impact of financial training, low-interest rates and freedom to sell their prawns at the market rate increasing their earnings. In turn, this resulted in a demand for bigger loans to build assets – an outcome not predicted at the outset. In June 2016 Shanti Life provided new loans to the women primarily to buy boats and nets allowing them to increase their catch and income.

Shanti Life recognises there’s more to empowerment than financial independence and another key requirement is sanitisation and safety. Women often have to walk long distances to find a place to use the bathroom. Sadly, these facilities are very unhygienic and the long journeys, especially at night, can be dangerous; it is not uncommon for women to go missing or be raped. Shanti life provides loans for women to build eco-sanitation toilets; giving these women safe and clean bathroom near to where they live and work. These bathrooms are also very environmentally friendly as all waste from these toilets is then recycled to be used in agriculture and farming.

To find out more about Shanti Life and read testimonies from people who have been helped please visit www.shantilife.org where you will also find out how you can help to lift a community out of poverty.

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