We’d like to offer a report on what Oikocredit’s Social Performance Manager, Ging Ledesma, has been doing on a recent trip to Vallanadu, in the Tamil Nadu state of India.
Oikocredit’s Social Performance Manager, Ging Ledesma, traveled to Tamilnadu by way of Bengaluru, India last month. Where’s that? Bengaluru is another way to say Bangalore, a city you may have heard of, home to over 7 million people. Tamilnadu is located to the southeast of Bangalore, and is home to Oikocredit’s project partner Activists for Social Alternatives (ASA). ASA is a wide-reaching microfinance institution that began in 1986 to provide financial support to poor Tamil women. Today, ASA’s work also reaches five other states in northern India, and the organization’s services have also expanded to leadership training and children’s schooling.
While she was there, Ging visited one of ASA’s schools, the Vidiyal Matriculation Higher Secondary School, in Valanadu Kaikatti. Oikocredit recently lent about $1 million to this partner to expand the school’s facilities and build a dorm for students. Here’s an excerpt from Ging’s report:
“The four-story building was built to accommodate 1,000 students. Today, it has 1,497 students and a visit to the classrooms confirms that they are literally overflowing. In some classrooms, we find children working on their schoolwork on the floor. On the top floor, wooden dividers sectioned off a large hall into three classrooms.”
Ging writes that building the school was ASA’s way of thanking the community. The vast majority, 80%, of the school’s students are children of farmers, farm and day laborers, many of whom are first generation literates.
This is impressive, given that nearly 42% of India’s rural population live below the national poverty line (about $.50 a day!). The school’s fees are lower than government schools, and the graduation rates are higher – “this school’s passing rate for the past five years has been 100%,” says Mr Paulraj, the school principal.
A vast country, it is nearly impossible to create a comprehensive profile of India within the confines of a blog. India is home to 1,189,172,906 people – the second-most populous country in the world. At least 13 distinct languages are spoken within its 35 states and territorial regions. India is made up of enormous metropolises like New Delhi or Calcutta, beautiful beaches such as those of Kerala or Goa, great deserts like the Thar Desert in the northwest.
An estimated 42% of India’s population live below the international poverty line of $1.25 per day, though rates are dropping significantly thanks to wide-reaching poverty reduction efforts like the UN World Food Programme. One in three Indians live below the national poverty line, and half the poor are women.
Like the country itself, the microfinance sector in India is also vast, varying, and the need is great. Of all the 71 countries in which Oikocredit invests, India’s MFIs and economic organizations receive the greatest percentage of our funds. Oikocredit provides loan to 94 microfinance institutions in India.