The following guest post was written by Julie Hindmarsh. Julie is a clinical instructor at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing in Baltimore, Md. specializing in public health and global health care. She is a member of the Women’s Opportunity Network (WON) and serves on the board of Opportunity’s microinsurance subsidiary MicroEnsure. She sends this travel post while in Chennai, India attending the Opportunity International Network Global Conference.
We had the special opportunity to visit Sigaram (translates to “mountain peak”), a Trust Group of women clients in a leprosy colony. Growing Opportunity (GO Finance) India has been the first microfinance group to enter this colony. Our clients are the daughters or granddaughters of people diagnosed with leprosy. Though they could actually leave the colony at any time, they stay because the family ties here are strong and the social stigma of the disease has an impact on future generations. So they see themselves as outcasts of society, and we found that many were very shy to speak with visitors.
One of the goals of working with this group is to build these women’s self confidence. Each Opportunity India client recites the Client Group Pledge at each Trust Group meeting, which includes these promises:
- I will be disciplined, united, courageous and hardworking.
- I will take care of my family members’ health.
- I will earn sufficient money to educate my children.
- I will avoid unwanted expenses and focus on saving money and improving the quality of life.
- I will follow the good counsel from others.
- I will abide by the rules and regulations of my group.
- We will participate in all social initiatives in my community.
- I will tell others about the benefits I have received and help them also to receive the same.
These women are engaged in a candle-making business. For most of the women, having profits from their business is the first time that they have had control over their own money. Many tell stories of life before the loans, when they had to ask their husbands for money and often were turned away without a word.
For women in the colony the prime transformation goal is for them to see themselves as people created in the image of God; women of dignity and self-worth.