A lady wearing red, walks out of a stone-built house, smiling and carrying a blue box on her shoulders. She makes way to her home, where she places the box carefully.
This cheerful lady is Basmati Kathayat, 33 years old and a mother of four. She is also the box keeper at Namuna Savings Group in rural Jumla. This role entails her to keep the savings box safe and secure as well as transporting the box to the group’s meeting location, to and from her house. She does this by manually carrying the box, on her shoulders.
To many people, this manual transportation may seem like an inconvenience, almost bothersome. But Basmati considers this a privilege, since the savings box holds far more significance to her and other women in her village than one may assume.
To them, the box signifies financial independence- something they had been yearning for decades. In a patriarchal society like Nepal’s, this is not an isolated case. Most Nepali women have depended on the male members of their family for almost everything, including finances. Men are both the decision-makers and the financial controllers in most Nepali households. This has pushed Nepali women to lag behind in several socio-economic aspects.
“When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I used to have constant cravings for spicy and sour food, but I didn’t have any money with me and would feel uncomfortable asking my husband. I would feel helpless and sad,” recalls Basmati.
In an effort to change this situation, World Vision International Nepal, along with its Partner NGO, Karnali Sustainable Development Academy (KASDA) Jumla, introduced the Saving for Transformation project in 21 wards of Jumla. Following that, Namuna Savings Group was formed in Basmati’s community, consisting of 24 members. Rammaya Budha was nominated as its President and Shanti Budha as its secretary; the members were trained on savings group dynamics and how to manage it well. In the past two years, they have also received continuous technical support from the project staff.
Every week, the group meets and each member contributes NRs.125 (equivalent to USD 1.12) which goes into a ‘loan fund’ and a ‘social fund’. So far, the group has been able to save NRs. 3,77,585 (equivalent to USD 3402) in their loan fund and NRs. 2,800(equivalent to USD 26) in their social fund. The group’s members can take ‘micro-loans’ from the savings at a minimum interest rate, far lesser than any bank or financial institution would levy. They can also utilise the social fund for any emergency purposes or for a social cause or purpose jointly agreed upon.
Members have taken loans to purchase vegetable fertilisers, pay for their children’s school fees, start goat farming, open a tuck shop and for family emergencies, etc. Basmati, herself, has taken loan to open a small hotel in the local market with her husband and to purchase vegetable farming supplies. “My family was sceptical about me being in the group; it is a waste of time, they would say. But since understanding the methods better, my husband especially supports me and we utilise loans from it, since it is more affordable to pay back. He also encourages me to attend the group’s meetings regularly,” she shares.
Moreover, Basmati has herself been able to save substantially and has done health insurance for her children with her share. She looks forward to educating her children, atleast till high school, so that they can find a decent job. “Although I am not educated, my children don’t have to go through the same situation as me. I hope they can find good jobs and look after us better,” she shares. “I am so thankful towards all the supporting organisations for this life-changing opportunity,” she adds.
The saving for transformation project has initiated 50 savings groups in Jumla so far, urging and supporting women towards financial independence.