Women's Cooperatives A National Pride : Thakur Singh Tharu

The landless poor women of Banke in far west Nepal had never imagined that their cooperative, which collected a monthly deposit of Rs. 10 from each of them, would some day mobilise millions of rupees and give them many benefits. Within 14 years of running a cooperative, the women have achieved a huge success. Basobas Mahila Sahakari Sanstha (Settlement Women Cooperative) has been carrying out transactions worth more than Rs. 10 million a year. The cooperative has lent about 100 million rupees to lower class women.

Some women of Kohalpur in Banke formed a group in 2001, and each of them deposited Rs. 10 a month. The landless squatters took the initiative with the objective of bringing together the scattered women into an organisation. Later in 2007 they registered the group as Basobas Mahila Sahakari Sanstha and commenced financial transactions.

Collateral-free housing loans

The cooperative has been lending up to Rs. 200,000 collateral-free loans to women to construct houses. As it provides a home loan at an annual interest rate of 8 per cent, the cooperative has become increasingly popular among the landless women in Kohalpur. About 500 women have built houses through the loans taken from the cooperative.

It has taken many people by surprise as the saving group has been able to invest millions of rupees.

"We stated that the saving scheme was targeting the landless and squatters. Since the demand for loans exceeded our small deposit, we borrowed some money from a bank. The investment of the borrowed amount resulted in increased transaction. Our cooperative believes that if one works honestly and continuously, it can bring about a huge change in the lives of the lower class women," says Geeta Oli, chair of the cooperative.    

Honouring the audacity of the poor village women, the Village Development Committee (VDC) provided the cooperative Rs. 2.7 million for the development of a well-managed settlement. With this financial support, the capital of the cooperative went on increasing.

At the beginning, the local leaders of the political parties were vehemently opposed to their taking money from the VDC. But with the passage of time, their views have changed. Some 2,000 women of Kohalpur are affiliated with the cooperative. There are 58 women's groups. The cooperative has been providing loans to poor women to construct toilets and houses as well as for income generating activities.

Jyotikunj Savings and Credit Cooperative Limited, situated at the Martyr Setu BK crossroad in Nepalgunj, does transactions worth Rs. 20 million. It has 1,100 women shareholders. It has been providing loans to women to start small businesses.

"At the beginning, when we started collecting deposits ranging from Rs. 50 to 100, none of us had thought that the organisation would grow to such an extent. Now we have realised that this is possible. We faced some problems once, but resolved it gradually," said Chandra Kala Uprety, a member of the cooperative.

A total of 419 cooperatives are registered in Banke district. Out of them, 144 have shut down. And 49 are run completely by women. As women make deposits on time and repay the installments on the loans, the cooperatives they run have become successful. Those who are associated with the cooperatives no longer need to go to the local moneylenders.

Mahila Samaj Sewa Sahakari Sanstha, another women-only cooperative at Kohalpur, has more than 1,000 female depositors, and has been lending money to them. Meena Sigdel, chair of the cooperative, said that both the deposits and lendings had been increasing. The interest accrued on the lending is the main source of income of the cooperative.

Various organisations have been providing training to the members of the cooperatives to enhance their capacity. Once the savings reached Rs. 250,000, they registered the group as a cooperative.

Milijuli Swablamban Krishi Sahakari Sanstha, a cooperative established under the chairpersonship of Ek Maya BK, a single woman affected by the conflict, in Khajur, Banke, has about 1,700 shareholders.

After receiving training through the cooperative, the women of the area have been making good income from vegetable farming and cattle rearing. The cooperative has lent over Rs. 10.5 million. In recent times, women's trust in the cooperative has been increasing.  

"We have been providing support for agriculture as well. Single women have also borrowed from the cooperative, and they have become self-reliant. If one is eager to work in a group, success is not far," said Ek Maya. The cooperative has twice been felicitated by the Division Cooperatives Office.

About 1,000 women in Banke district alone are employed in collecting deposits and in the offices. According to Kripa Ram Badiya, chair of Global Cooperative, about 10-15 women can get employment in a well-functioning cooperative. 

Good cooperatives

Prakash Raj Paudel, Chief of the Cooperative Division Office, Nepalgunj, says that cooperatives that confine their lending to the shareholders, collect monthly deposits, not transgress their jurisprudence, and those not investing in gold, silver and land purchase are sure to succeed.

"Cooperatives run by women do not repeat mistakes. That's why they are more successful. Other cooperatives should learn from the success of those women. If loans are recovered and deposits are collected on time, cooperatives will not collapse. The success of the cooperatives run by women has become a matter of national pride," he said.

-- Sancharika Feature Service


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