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POVERTY

‘Life is a cart’

In his classic text, Looking Backwards (1888), Ralph Bellamy suggested that life was like a huge cart being pushed along a track which he likened to life’s journey. The analogy is especially apt for the women of India who often push huge carts in real life.

For the most part, the track is difficult, up-hill and rocky. People are divided into those riding on top of the cart and those pushing the cart along life’s highway.

The major struggle in life is to secure a comfortable place on the cart and then maintain that place for one’s children. This struggle becomes so all consuming that most of those on the cart fail to realise that any progress made by the cart is achieved by the efforts of those who pull or push it along. Some even accept without question that progress is achieved as a result of directions given by those on top who supposedly have a far sighted perspective. In actual fact, progress along the track means great hardship for those pulling along a cart loaded with the possessions of those fortunate people clinging to the top of the cart.

Some of these more fortunate ones do look down from time to time, and realise how difficult it is for those pushing the cart. Once in a while, some of these riders are prepared to walk alongside the cart, showing concern for the plight of the labourers or offering encouragement. Finally, there is a very small number of people who choose to add their weight and help by pushing and pulling to move the cart forwards. (Orrell, 1990)

A Village Change Story
‘Money matters’

Most of the women who enter the Grihini program have been born into poverty. Their parents are likely to be in debt to the landlord for which they work. Some families have been in debt for generations. When village workers need money for hospital care or for a marriage in the family they are forced to go to money lenders or their landlord for a loan at a very high rate of interest.

Learning about finance and handling money is therefore an important part of the education program at Grihini. Learning skills to become independent must be accompanied by the skills needed to handle money.

Especially important, however, is the small savings scheme initiated by village women and operated with the support of Grihini. These women of the village regularly deposit a small portion of their meagre earnings in a savings scheme that is independent of the bank or the landlords and does not charge interest. The money in this simple scheme is accessible to those who contribute when they have a crisis or need.

Small loans are available to members who can borrow up to twice the amount they have saved. This scheme helps them break the bondage to debt many have experienced for generations.

Inside a typical Dalit house in a mountain village

Inside a typical Dalit house in a mountain village

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