Sambhali Sheerni Microfinance Project

In Setrawa and the surrounding villages in the rural desert area of Rajasthan, 100km west of Jodhpur, women are disadvantaged with illiteracy and little recognition for their capabilities, meaning they receive unequal access to job opportunities and are reliant on their husband to provide the family income.

This project was established in October 2009 to help these women, by providing them with a means of saving money and having access to loans, thus enabling them to create small enterprises of their own and work towards financial independence. Women are given financial and business management training. Currently the programme includes around 85% Dalit women, many of whom are widows, whose husbands have died working in the stone quarries, a common but dangerous occupation in the area.

The Sheerni project is a leading example of the power of microfinance in India. This process of extending small loans to individual borrowers who have traditionally lacked access to credit, has become one of the most popular anti-poverty strategies throughout the world and has proved effective in empowering communities and is easy to set up and sustain.

There are 10 groups in Setrawa each with about 10-13 women in each group. Since 2016, 3 groups have also started in Jodhpur with a total of 34 women, as well as a few groups in Jodhpur, especially with women who have graduated from the Empowerment Centres.

Pooja Sharma (Setrawa)
“My husband runs a shop in the market. We thought that if we ran a shop from our home simultaneously we would be more successful. I approached Sambhali for a loan as it was interest-free and we have 4 children to raise. With their help, I started the new shop and am now in business with my husband. My children go to the (Setrawa) Empowerment Centre for extra English. I am very happy.”

Imrat Kanwar (Setrawa)
In June 2011, Imrat bought a grinding machine for grain with a loan, but realised she couldn’t operate it as she didn’t have electricity in her house. She approached the Sarpanch (the elected village leader) asking for help. Within four days, the Sarpanch had electricity poles erected and organised electricity for her house. Since then Imrat has given advice to others on how to apply for below poverty-level cards, ration cards, NAREGA Scheme (employment for villagers by government) cards and how to fight for their rights. 16 other women have now applied for electricity because of her enthusiasm and self-motivation. It is truly encouraging to see how a little external support can really make a difference to a person’s life.

Sheerni-women with their businesses