In CFCAís Hyderabad Project in India, the mothers of sponsored children are encouraged to come together in small self-help groups where they share their concerns, help one another and make small loans to the members of the group.
The mothers typically use these loans to start a small business, pay for higher education or pay for a medical emergency. The loans start small and grow along with the size of the loan pool and the individual memberís ability to repay.
Tuesday I visited the newest sponsored mothers group. Each of these 15 women has a child who has recently been sponsored in the Hyderabad project, and the mothers were applying to start a mothers group.
Starting a mothers group means that the mothers commit to following CFCAís accounting standards and financial transparency procedures for all loans. The mothers must also save a small amount in their account each month, and CFCA matches each memberís savings. The mothersí savings and CFCA match create the loan pool for the small loans. Then, when a motherís child graduates or leaves the program, she is entitled to the portion she has contributed and the CFCA match.
A proud new member of a CFCA mothers group
The meeting began with Rosy and Sukshmana, two CFCA Hyderabad staff members, asking the mothers why they wanted to start a sponsored mothers group. The mothers explained that they had seen the benefits that the other sponsored mothers had gained from being in a small group. They wanted to be able to start or grow their own small businesses and eventually send their children to university.
Rosy and Sukshmana explained the typical mothers group meeting agenda, which includes a time to manage all of the financial aspects and loans and a separate time for the mothers to share their lives with each other. Itís hard to tell sometimes which portion of the meeting is more valuable to the mothers. Many of them feel very isolated in their homes tending to their families, and the opportunity to share their joys and concerns with a group of women can be a big relief and very empowering.
Each sponsored mothers group has a name, so the next task of this group was to choose their name.
Mothers group President Arokiarani and Secretary Lourdumary
They chose Mother Teresa as their name to honor Mother Teresaís work on behalf of the poor in India. They then voted to elect two leaders. They chose Arakiarani as President and Lourdumary as Secretary. These women will be responsible for facilitating the groupsí meetings, managing the groupsí accounting and making the monthly deposits into the groupsí bank account. All financial transactions in the mothers groups are done publicly, and each groupís bank account and financial records are regularly audited by CFCA project staff to make sure that the process is transparent and trustworthy.
The members of Mother Teresa mothers group are very poor, and they experience many forms of oppression in their daily lives. Establishing this sponsored mothers group is an attempt to restore their sense of dignity and self-worth while building the financial resources of their families. The Mother Teresa mothers group of Hyderabad is an impressive collection of individual women. It will be exciting to watch these women become a community over the next several months.