In 1999 Food for the Hungry started a learning and savings group for women in the village of Kallanpur Hindupara, in the district of Bogra. Most families in this Hindu minority village were extremely poor yet very industrious. However, limited access to education, corrupt money lenders and damaging superstitions trapped these people in a cycle of poverty. After years of struggling, most people seemed to have lost the will to try to improve their lives.
The women in this learning and savings group called themselves ‘Rajloki’, which means ‘a woman blessed by God for her hard work’. Initially, they started saving just 3 taka per group member (which is about 2 pennies), but as they began to see the value of the savings, they all decided to increase their contributions to 5 taka each.
Every week they got together to save and to learn how to read and write. Slowly they began to use the basic arithmetic they had learnt to manage their joint savings accounts.
As time went by they began to discover how to improve their living conditions and how to look after their children’s health. They started to hope for a better life.
Eventually, their collective savings enabled these women to invest in purchasing a rickshaw van, a cow and a land lease. This was a huge step for them. Income from these small but sustainable businesses enabled them to feed their children and provide clean drinking water and a sanitation system for their village.
As our staff member, Zakir Hossain, continued to teach and encourage the group, it became clear to group members that education was an important part of their development. They could see how their lives had been limited without an education, and they did not want their children to suffer in the same way.
In 2002, with the help of other learning and savings groups in their village and some materials donated from Food for the Hungry, the Rajloki group started a preschool for more than 16 children.
Our staff supported the group in this process and trained their teacher, but the group paid his salary.
The once helpless people of the Kallanpur Hindupara village are now taking responsibility for their own development and the future of their children. Together groups in this village have also invested in a crop irrigation project, helping over 100 farmers and creating valuable new jobs.
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