"All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware." Martin Buber
At the end of June I'm off again, for three weeks at a university in South Korea and a visit to Kyoto, Japan, then in August we will be in Guatemala looking at one of the world's greatest challenges: how to grow a lot of food sustainably on small farms. Come along!
Sunday, September 30, 2012
India # 10 The Saree Circle
CIRCLE Dear Blog Buddies, I promised this post last week and wrote it on time but publishing it without pictures seemed a shame. But the upload glitch is still glitching. Maybe this week I'll have a breakthrough and can populate past blogs with images.
Today I step
into an event that has been repeated millions of times since the l970’s: the
monthly meeting of women who run tiny businesses, thanks to microloans
they have mutually pledge to repay.
In the early
morning we cross the Ganges, now at floodtide, from Patna in the state of Bihar on a bridge nearly five miles
long, which is itself momentous, and then walk a kilometer through banana
groves to a tiny grocery store behind which ten women are seated in a semi-circle.
Other guests and I are introduced, join the circle and
Each member has
brought her monthly loan payment to the treasurer who counts it, enters the
tally in a record book and presents it to the Saija loan officer. Each explains to the visitors how they use their loan: one for
a cow, one for a bicycle rickshaw to haul bananas to market, one to rent tents,
chairs and tablesfor weddings, and so
been together for three years and obviously enjoy this time, laughing
easily.There is a glow about
them; they are beautiful people and anything but impoverished.It feels at once natural and a
great privilege to be with them.
officer has some news to deliver and over time has offered training and advice,
but simply coming together with ritual consistency has proved to be a
reinforcement which has enabled group-lending to those begin with nothing to be successful over four decades.
discovered microfinance in Brazil in 1973 and Muhammed Yunnis invented it in Bangladesh
when Grameen Bank was created in l976.Ninety-four percent of Grameen’s seven million loans in Bangldesh are to
women and all are in “solidarity groups” like this one.ACCION still promotes the model but its
partners have a much larger proportion of individual loans.The
government of India mandates the Grameen model for all of the country’s 10,000
MFI’s.Men’s groups are typically
composed of five.
powered microfinance and insured repayment rates in the high 90’s from Day One.The money goes for school tuition and uniforms,
food and medicine.That’s far less certain certain
with the guys.
I try to sink
into the moment, take it all in, look around as deeply as I can.That I had
some small role in all this over 50 years ago seems an utter miracle, an act of God, but that thought
only comes later.Right now I am
surrounded by bananas and a circle of women whose remembered faces will give me
pleasure for years.
RUPEES AT A TIME
We must be
on our way because at the district office new groups of ten women are being
created at a rate of one every half hour.Saija has raised 180 million rupees for new loans and is determined to
disperse all of them in July, August and September. The staff of 10 of this district has already approved
900 loans for the month and it’s time to turn over the money.As we approach, twenty women are leaving, others
are climbing the stairs and even more are filling up every available chair in
is for a Saija official to take each group through a series of questions and
answers to sure they understand the obligation they are undertakin, often with
a family member also pledged.They get it, that’s pretty clear.Then each signs in four places and finally there is a little ceremony
where they receive 10,000 rupees, or about $200, clasped in a paper band.I’m been asked to do the honors for one
group, which I do awkwardly with a little Namaste bow, the only gesture I
know.We are all quite serious and
proper and hustle along.Children are squirming
and the menfolk are waiting on the stairs.