In October 2010, the YGB team visited NISHTHA, a non-governmental organization that has served over 250 villages south of Kolkata, for over 35 years. NISHTHA supports women and girls who live in poor, rural areas and have particularly difficult lives with limited choices. Due to a lack of education and opportunity, many find themselves married in their teenage years, often leading to a downward spiral of dropping out of school, teenage pregnancy, dependency, abuse, and malnutrition.

Saraswati, a 35-year-old mother with three children and one granddaughter, received a small loan of Rs. 2000 from NISHTHA in 2006. She started making profits with rice paddy sales and was an inspiration to other village women. Today, 20 women run rice paddy businesses. They follow NISHTHA’s micro-saving and credit model, where it is mandatory for each and every member to save money. For the first time, they are better equipped for life’s challenges and able to plan for their children’s education.

Saraswati—”My mother did not have this kind of freedom. My father made me marry young. I want my daughter to have a good education and enjoy a life with dignity.”

During our visit, we witnessed this generation of women truly making the best of their new opportunities to break the vicious cycle of poverty and gender discrimination. We are so inspired and grateful to be able to extend our support to their effort.

Significant growth funds more girls’ higher educations

With the growing support from the global yoga community, YGB launched its own “Sister Aid” direct funding program here to provide micro loans for more women and education funds for their daughters. YGB has been able to double the number of recipients every year, 44 women and 44 daughters in 2012, which increased to 109 mothers and 110 daughters in 2013. Average monthly income among the mothers has increased 600% in the last two years and all the daughters are attending primary school to high school.

NISHTHA director Mina Das says about this program, “This is the most innovative program.” It is innovative not only because it does not charge interest for the loans, but most importantly because it requires loan recipient mothers to save at least 50 Rupees a month for their daughters’ higher education. Therefore, the ultimate goal for this loan and profit making is “girls higher education,” which is unique in the field of micro loan practices.

This is particularly significant in this region, as it is still a common practice for girls to marry as young as 13 years of age. While walking through villages, we met many young teen mothers carrying babies who do not even know the age of their husbands. Your contribution makes this project possible, and we will keep you updated on its progress.

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