One Woman’s Courage

Learning to sign her name was just a first step for Rajwati

Rajwati’s husband is a construction laborer, whose job routinely puts him in harm’s way. But his work injury two years ago caught them both unprepared. The sudden loss of income meant she had to pull her two older children out of school. And there was less to eat. But she kept her family together as her husband slowly recovered and life eventually returned to normal. When it did, Rajwati was determined to make sure her two youngest children would have a different future. Unlike her, they would learn to read. Unlike their older siblings, they would complete their education. 

That’s when Rajwati reached out to Sonata Finance, a microfinance institution and Grameen Foundation partner. Through Sonata, she secured a small loan to buy a buffalo. Though Rajwati cannot read, her Sonata agent taught her to sign her name on the loan papers and schooled her in basic finances. Her confidence grew. She began selling buffalo milk for 25 Rupees (about 37 cents) per liter. The extra income was such a help that she took out another loan to buy a second buffalo.
Sonata Finance provides microloans to women like Rajwati in Uttar Pradesh, one of India’s poorest states. Grameen Foundation has worked with Sonata for more than five years, helping it to build its operations and to design financial services for women like Rajwati: women without formal education, often confined to home by duty and custom—but courageous, and determined. 

Now, Grameen Foundation is collaborating on a project that enables Sonata clients to repay their microloans via mobile phone instead of traveling up to 15 miles to a branch office. The service is affordable and the process is simple: clients deposit their money at the nearest office of Oxigen, a mobile payments company, which notifies Sonata of the transaction. Clients receive confirmation on their phones that the transaction was successful.

The convenience of the mobile repayment system gives clients like Rajwati a priceless benefit—time. Time to build up their businesses, to take care of their families and homes, and to venture beyond boundaries that restrict their lives.

The program has already reached out to more than 23,000 women to train and educate them on how to use digital-based financial services. More than 5,500 of them have already used an Oxigen agent in their community to repay loans. The project aims to reach an additional 27,000 women in the next year.  

With your support, women like Rajwati can be agents of change in India’s rural villages, breaking the generational cycle of poverty for themselves and their children.