Women’s Empowerment in Microfinance

Kanti Devi and her husband live in Muzaffarpur, Bihar, with their two children. Kanti’s husband was a painter, and their income was meager and unstable. By joining a Rickshaw Sangh collective, Kanti and her husband were able to access credit and own their own rickshaw, giving them financial stability. With no rental rates to pay for the vehicle, all the profit goes directly to the family’s needs. To supplement their income, Kanti’s family also bought a stall, where Kanti makes and sells tea.

Kanti, who takes a practical approach to their financial situation, adds that the ability to own their own assets – the rickshaw and the stall – will also help them save for when they are older, and for their children. “The income from the rickshaw means having food every day,” says Kanti. “Being able to educate our kids, establish a store, save money…there have been a lot of benefits from Rickshaw Sangh.”

The Rickshaw Sangh targets one of India’s most overlooked populations – the estimated eight million rickshaw operators – and provides access to credit alongside a suite of services and benefits to help rickshaw drivers break cycles of poverty by owning their own vehicles. In this informal industry, drivers are subject to prohibitive vehicle rental rates as well as social stigma and harassment.

Rickshaw Sangh is working to formalize an industry paradigm by mainstreaming rickshaw operators into the financial system, while providing foundational benefits like ID cards, licenses, permits, insurance, and uniforms. The program provides the critical access to credit by organizing drivers into small joint-liability groups and by providing banks with a First Loss Default Guarantee (FLDG).

Drew Foxman

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