I was just out of college when I read ‘Banker to the poor’ by Muhammed Yunus, which in itself was something. I was least interested in economics then but it was probably the Nobel Prize winning status of a Bangladeshi guy that perhaps caught my fancy. Especially since I actually bought the book – from where I come, buying books is deemed a waste. A lending library is a more proper choice, if you absolutely MUST read at all. So, well, I had decided that I MUST read after all and that too Muhammed Yunus on microcredit. And so I did. Apart from being a well-written book the part I most admired was the concept of lending to women, and mostly, exclusively so. This was the Grameen model and still is, for a lion’s share of Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) even in India. In fact, in India, MFIs are doing really well in urban as well as rural areas.The common thread running between them? – lending to women self-help groups. And mostly, almost exclusively so.
That in itself is extremely interesting. It has become a sort of a principle for microfinance to lend to women. This is because while the costs of loan utilisation monitoring are high, women are observed to be more reliable in making repayments.
Talks with analysts reveal that while on the ground the man of the house may get to decide how and where to spend the money as well as spend it, he looks to the woman to help him get those funds. She then has a leverage on him at least as regards repayment. Which, is an empowering thing all by itself.
Now talk about a new item I came across this past Sunday in the Sunday TOI on Munnar’s tea workers link here shoving past men to agitate for increase in wages (in their case just Rs.6 more per kilo). The interesting thing is that apart from accepting CPM leader VS Achuthanandan’s support and allowing him to join their protest, they want no men around their agitation. It’s not that there aren’t trade unions (mostly men) ready to support them; it’s that they studiously reject any parleys and want nothing to do with men.
Reason? “They can be easily influenced by liquor,” says Gomathy, who spearheaded the campaign, dismissively (taken from the article above).
I was like, wow. Finally. A proper, rustic, feminist movement. Eschewing male leadership of organised predominantly male trade unions who usually overlook the demands of women seems to have made the politicos in the region sit up and take notice. Talks are about how women are growing impatient. Well, I say, about time, too!
More strength to these women – the sooner we figure out how lopsided our world is towards injustice and competition over compassion, the better it is for all of us. Within our homes and without.