The Inspirational Rural Women of Manipur | Milaap

The Inspirational Rural Women of Manipur

Deep in rural Manipur, on the sloping green hills, lies the village of Aimol. Hidden away amongst the lush greenery is a series of make-shift homes. Sheets of corrugated steel make up most of the roofs here. The rest are thatched huts. The village looks forgotten as if it’s a relic of a time long gone by. But, the inhabitants, the ones we are here to meet, have defied the circumstances to rise proudly.

Parking the motorcycle outside of the house, I and my field partner, are greeted instantly by a genuinely happy woman. She holds our hands as she shakes them, professing her thanks for the loan. Her name is Aching. She is the group leader of the five women we are here to meet.

Aching explains how she and the others are of tribal/indigenous ancestry. They had received little to no education. And they weren’t allowed to hold any jobs in the government or private sector. The surrounding farmland on the hills is all they have. The valley below them, composed of mainly fish and agricultural farms, was not theirs. They were not allowed to purchase more land or expand their property -  and even if they could, they had no money to do so.

Most of their husbands worked in town or on neighbours’ farms. Their own farms were neglected. Aching and the four others felt like they were stuck. They wanted to expand and reinvigorate their farm to raise their income, but how? They didn’t want to rely on the local money lender whose interest rates were astronomical. Instead, they looked to YVU Microfin, a partner of Milaap.

Through the microfinance loan, the five women were able to purchase seeds, expand their farmland and produce for the year. Most importantly, the women with children were able to pay deposits on education fees. With the income generated from the farm, Aching was able to send her daughter to be a nurse in Arunachal Pradesh while her son’s college fees were paid in full; an education she never got was instilled upon them through her hard work.

Aching’s pineapple farm is now double the size of what it once was. She owns chickens, pigs and a goat - extra income that never seemed attainable. The village never had chickens before for income purposes; a goat was for dreamers.

Before the loan, the women used to rely on the produce that came sparingly. It was dependent on the season. And their seeds were never fruitful enough to earn a decent profit. Individually, they now all have a regular source of income. Their husbands have come back to work on the family’s farm. Aching’s profits have increased so much she doesn’t need to depend on a loan again.