One of Milaap’s Impact Partners and a long time supporter, Mr. Ray Umashankar went on a field trip to meet our borrowers in Belgaum, Karnataka. He returned back with some inspiring stories. Here’s a glimpse of his experience:
Being a lender on Milaap, this year I decided to visit India and see the impact of loans that were disbursed by Milaap to the communities they support. With so many diverse causes on their website, I visited their field partner MASS, which is working towards providing financial support to ex-Devadasi women in Belgaum district of northern Karnataka
I decided to meet women from this particular project, because I am leading my own organization called ASSET India Foundation which is helping trafficked women and we empower such groups by teaching them computer skills and English literacy. Also, my organization partnered with Milaap to support this particular project. So I was all the more excited to meet these women entrepreneurs and was looking forward to my visit to Belgaum.
While interacting with the borrowers, I noticed that these women were trafficked at young age because of reasons like either losing their land, business failure or lack of education. And due to these reasons, their parents had forced them into a system that forcefully trafficked them at a young age.One of the ways to end this problem was that if mothers had access to financial resources, they could start a legitimate business and send their daughters to school.In my entire journey, I travelled to six different villages in Belgaum district covering 250 miles over bone-jarring roads to meet with borrowers and their children. One pretty seventeen year old girl stands out. She and her ex devadasi mother had traveled for hours to meet me.
Interacting with the borrowers and local population, village after village.The girl wants to take the entrance exam for engineering going against community pressure to get married. Her mother supports the girl's dream. They lacked the funds to pay for coaching classes and exam fees. The mother and daughter were in tears.What a privilege it is, to be able to help this girl pursue her dream!I also learnt from our partner that to qualify for a loan, the mothers have to make a commitment to keep their daughters in school.
Tailoring class in village near Ghataprabha, Raibag-Belgaum. They make blouses, petticoats, school uniforms, salwar/kameez from old sarees.
Truly, this field trip has been an incredibly satisfying and a rewarding experience for me, to interact with the local population in Belgaum. My respect and admiration for the local partner grew many fold after I witnessed the environment in which they have been operating. For example, the local police in the village of Saundatti asked me to leave the town when they found me questioning locals and shopkeepers about this practice. I can only imagine the daily challenges our partner must be enduring to do the work, we are all proud of. The experience has been so enterprising. I have learned so much from these wonderful people!