Normally, when one gets into an auto rickshaw in Kolkata, India, there is room for four passengers plus the auto driver. The auto that was taking me from the train station to the town of Dhosa managed to pack nine people in it plus the driver. I was totally baffled that the vehicle was even able to move, yet it snaked through traffic quite smoothly. When the auto rickshaw reached the stop and the passengers started getting out, a scene where a bunch of clowns start hopping out of a toy car popped in my head.
After I composed myself, I walked to the Dhosa branch office of DCBS. Inside, I noticed that there were many sewing machines everywhere: some were on tables, ready to be used and others were brand new and still in their packaging. Shaymal, the branch manager, explained that many of the women apply for tailoring loans to purchase sewing machines. He went on to say that DCBS offers sewing courses to the women of Dhosa so they can learn a skill that will allow them to generate income.
After a quick walk with Shaymal, we reached the weekly meeting place for a group of women who have been associated with DCBS for a few years. I was introduced to Manohar Sardar, who was the leader of this group. She was a sweet older woman who was a little shy at first. She and the other women explained to me that the "Chikan & Jori" (a very elaborate yet beautiful type of embroidery work) style work they do for saris has helped them financially. Depending on the type of the sari they are working with, they can make from Rs. 100- Rs. 1500 per sari. "The money we earn all depends on how much work we want to put in," explained Manohar. Their main goal is to provide for their families in any way they can. The main reason Manohar is working is so she can pay for her daughter's class eleven school fees. She wants her to be able to get a good job and possibly move into the city where there are many more opportunities.
On the other hand, the small village of Dhosa has very poor infrastructure, and their electricity comes from a plant which is located hundreds of miles away. This often leads to many annoyingly long power outages that hinder the women from working. The solar lanterns that most of these women have received through Milaap and DCBS's loan program has helped combat these problems. Manohar tells me that she can now peacefully work at night and her daughter can study in her room when the power goes out. Overall, the women were quite pleased with the solar lanterns, and are happy that they are able to utilize them for various purposes. One lady was very excited about a charging feature that allows them to charge their phones when the current goes off. "Now I can talk on the phone all day without problems!" she exclaimed.
Manohar (middle right) sitting and chatting with the women in her group