In the remote village
of Kollengode in Palakkad district of Kerala, a rural revolution
is taking place under the guidance of Dr. Prabhakar, who heads
a non-governmental organization(NGO) called Society for Rural
Improvement (SRI). Inspired by the success story of the Grameen
Banking System, conceived and executed in Bangladesh by Dr. Mohammed
Yunus, an economics professor, Dr. Prabhakar, an English professor
in the United States, founded his organisation in February 1996.
He started the Grameen Banking System by investing his own money
in it. To start with, loans were disbursed to 20 beneficiaries
in May 1996.
Undeterred by obstacles
and hardships he faced, Dr. Prabhakar moved forward and the results
were quite encouraging. The organisation gradually grew into a
large rural movement which exploded the myth that the poor rural
women were not credit-worthy. After seven years, the Society for
Rural Improvement has extended its clientele base to 3000. With
a repayment record of about 99 per cent, the organisation has
proved that the rural banking system can be utilised as a dynamic
component in the socio-economic development programme for the
poorest of the poor among the women.
The society is spread over 130 centres in its Kollengode and Vadavannur
branches. The total amount disbursed is about Rs. 5.72 crore.
Out of this Rs.3.45 crore has been repaid. In addition, Rs.1,72,800
has been generated as savings for the beneficiaries.
The managerial staff
of SRI got one month’s training at Grameen Trust, Bangladesh,
during 1997-98. During the training, they were exposed to the
grass-root level functioning of the rural banking system.
does not interfere with the selection and management of the work
by the beneficiaries but only monitors and provides necessary
help, guidance and leadership by acting as a catalyst and facilitator.
The women are at liberty to select an income-generating activity
they prefer, based on the local socio-economic scenario. The various
income-generating activities undertaken by the women beneficiaries
of the society include milking cows, paddy husking, making of
snacks, running tea and other shops, preparation of pickles and
An amount of Rs.8,000
is given as loan for milking of cows and Rs.5,000 for other occupations.
The annual interest charged is 15 per cent and the repayment is
on a weekly basis. No subsidy is given on the loan. The beneficiaries
are too happy nnot to face any hurdles in securing the loan once
the project is cleared by the society. B. Valsala of Vandithavalam
in Palakkad district is a satisfied beneficiary of the scheme.
Her husband, Mayankutty, is a tailor and the family was finding
it to difficult to make both ends meet with the income from tailoring.
Valsala took a loan of Rs.8000 from the Society for Rural Improvement
in 2002 for purchasing a cow. She has already paid back the entire
amount and has got a savings of Rs.1800 in the bank in her name.
She intends to take a second loan from the society for purchasing
Blending the positive
elements of the West and the East in the field of professionalism,
the society is trying to nurture a work force of young generation
with a sense of hard work, commitment and sincerity. There are
22 staff members in SRI and twelve of them are women. There is
no peon in the office and all are supposed to do every work. Dignity
of labour is their motto.
The society has
embarked upon innovative areas like Vanitha Grocery Store, Women’s
Garment Unit and Tender Coconut Parlour. While the Vanitha Grocery
store ensures supply of essential commodities with quality at
affordable cost to the rural women, Women’s Garment Unit is aimed
at eliminating exploitation of women’s labour. The Tender Coconut
Parlours are expected to revive the age-old natural healthy drinking
habit. The society also has plans to introduce a low-budget housing
scheme for the poor women in collaboration with the Kerala State
Nirmithi Kendra and the Swiss Development Corporation.
socio-economic development programme for the poor rural women
has been formulated with the Grameen Banking System as its base.
Since education is an important factor in the development process,
free tuition services to the poor and needy children are also
provided by the society. Efforts are afoot to educate the women
on safe drinking water, hygiene, sanitation and nutrition.
The society has
proved that a positive change is possible with hard work, discipline
and professionalism. It has effectively conveyed the message of
empowerment of women to the rural poor at the grassroot level.
The Society for Rural Improvement, Kollengode, has established
that the poorest rural women having no access to the traditional
banking system, can wisely invest money, can have entrepreneurial
skills and can be fully credit worthy. With proper help, guidance
and leadership, the rural women in Kollengode have proved to be
an asset not only to their homes but also to the society at large.
*DPR, PIB, Thiruvananthapuram