Oxfam’s work with financial institutions in Sri Lanka is enabling poor people to grow their own way out of poverty. Deepak Arvind meets Nirmala, who has set up a shop in her home town.
Kandasamy Nirmala’s husband is a fisherman. His income is barely enough to meet the daily expenses. Nirmala was keen to start her own business – one that allowed her to earn an income while staying close to home in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka. “I had a room in front of my house that could be easily converted to a store to sell some of the items villagers needed. So starting a convenience store seemed like a viable business idea,” explained Nirmala.
Nirmala opened her small shop in 2002. But more recently, after other shops opened up in the area, Nirmala’s earnings began to decrease. In order to be more competitive in the market, she applied for and received a loan of Rs. 50,000 (£292 GBP) at the interest rate of 8% from People’s Bank. Using this money she was able to invest in a wide range of supplies, which attracted new customers and, as a result, the stock turnover per month doubled.
Nirmala is a member of the Nagar Sarvodhayam Society, a community based organisation supported by Sarvodhaya and Oxfam GB. The society recommended her to People’s Bank, and continues to provide services to help her business develop. Through the society, the drainage has been cleared and the roads have been renovated. The roads have stopped flooding, which makes it easier for customers to reach Niramala’s shop even during the rainy period.
Each day, Nirmala sets aside Rs. 50 (£0.29) for the loan repayment, to avoid any major cash flow issues when the repayment is due. “I want to prove my credit worthiness to People’s Bank and establish myself as a valuable customer,” explained Nirmala, who wants People’s Bank to provide her with the financial assistance neededto expanding her business activities.
Good access to savings, credit, insurance and pensions enable poor people to build their assets gradually, develop their businesses, increase their income and improve their quality of life. Nirmala has a savings account with People’s Bank, a pension scheme at Department of Agriculture, and a life insurance policy with Ceylinco Life Insurance Ltd, all of which help her manage risks and make self-investments.
Oxfam’s work to give better access to financial support also empowers poor people, particularly women. Nirmala can now contribute equally towards the household income , and has gained a lot of confidence. “Before I used to be scared to speak to any officer,” she says, “but I now have the confidence to negotiate with officers, even managers”.
Where we work: Sri Lanka