When I reached Hallur, in Karnataka, to meet the Milaap borrowers working with our partner MASS, the first thing I noticed was corn. Each and every village lane was covered with corn, kept in the sun to dry. Almost all the women were busy cleaning corn, and so was Arati.
Arati lives in a lively household of ten members. Working on farm from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., taking care of household chores, and looking after her kids keeps her pretty occupied. But even so, she decided to start her own animal husbandry business. I certainly wanted to know her motivation for doing so, and she obliged my curiosity with a smile and an honest reply. “I have a son and a daughter. My son is in 5th standard and daughter goes to 7th. I want the two of them to be able to study,” she said. But Arati had no funds to start her business. So eleven months ago, she took a Milaap loan and bought a buffalo. This buffalo is her source of hope for her children’s future.
Along with Arati, her group member Yellavva also took a Milaap loan to buy a buffalo. But when I finally met Yellavva, I knew that either she was not 60-years-old as I was told, or the years had taken a lot of toll on her. She had difficulty walking without assistance, and her eyesight was poor. I also saw her buffalo which she bought with the loan amount; it was in pretty good health and gave around 4 liters of milk daily, which she was able to sell for Rs. 30 per litre. Later, I found out that Yellavva’s daughter Kashavva took care of the buffalo. Kashavva has also been taking care of her mother and all the household chores from past few years.
Arati, Yellavva, and Kashavva are all former Devadasis. Arati started her microenterprise to ensure a good future for her children, and Kashavva runs her small scale business so that she can provide better for her mother. They were alone when they had to face exploitation in the name of an unjust system, but that did not stop these women from becoming a good mother, a responsible daughter, or a bright entrepreneur.
Arati and her buffalo