Cassandra Rotolo 2017-02-08 01:06:09
Reaching across Borders to Fight Poverty Although India has one of the fastest growing economies in the world, an estimated 50 percent of Indians lack proper shelter. An overwhelming majority of the population does not have access to adequate sanitation or secondary education. Lions in Ireland are teaming up with Lions in India to help the poor in rural areas to help themselves. Lions of District 106 I in Ireland are partnering with the Arni Silk City Lions of District 324 A4 in India help women break the cycle of poverty. Together, they received a US$50,000 Core 4 grant from Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) to fund a microenterprise program for single and widowed mothers. LCIF believes that microenterprise boosts the economic well-being for those who live at or below the poverty level and have limited skills and capital but who aspire to improve their situation. The Lions are working with Nandri, a nonprofit in Ireland, and Child Aid Trust (CAT) in India to provide microenterprise loans to single and widowed mothers. Most of the women who participate in CAT programs are illiterate and support their families through menial labor. They are part of the Dalit caste, the lowest social class in India. The women are denied access to traditional credit or loan options. The women are given a loan of Rs. 25,000 (approximately US$366), which they repay at a one percent interest rate for 25 months. Some women use their loans to purchase a cow whose milk they can sell on an ongoing basis. Some choose to purchase sewing machines so they can find consistent work as seamstresses. Others open small shops to sell snacks and cold drinks in their communities. All of these options allow the women to be more independent and to feed and educate themselves and their children. Microfinance loans provide an option for women to break the cycle of poverty and support their families. Lions are involved in every step of the process, from reviewing loan applications to distributing checks. Lions from both countries serve on an advisory committee, providing financial oversight, organizing public awareness events and even training beneficiaries on budgeting. Lourdu Mary, a destitute widow in the village of Moranam, received a microenterprise loan. She lives with her two children in a small hut without electricity or proper sanitation and works as a daily laborer in a field. She used her loan to purchase a cow. Selling the cow’s milk for food and dung for fuel is helping her meet her family’s basic needs every day. Since piloting microenterprise grants in 2014, LCIF has funded six projects in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Ireland and Kenya, totaling US$475,000. More than 1,200 loans have been issued. For information on LCIF’s microenterprise grant program, visit lcif.org.
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