Bilau is like many rural communities in West Timor. Here, families have simple lives. They make do by farming, for subsistence and income, as their families have done for generations. They do so even though their land is arid and there is no reliable water supply. This makes growing enough extra vegetables to sell for cash difficult. So, to cope with this difficulty, people who have land resort to selling firewood. Others send their children to work outside the village. Some go just as far as the district capital; others go as far as Malaysia. To help Bilau improve its circumstances, so young people don’t have to leave for paid income, CWS has been working with community members in several ways. One of these is a successful effort to grow the ANUGRAH savings and loan group as part of BERDAYA, a women’s empowerment initiative to help women build financial independence in solidarity groups.
In September 2017, 12 women started the ANUGRAH group with a first shared investment of 324,000 Indonesian Rupiah – about $2 per member. In thinking back, group’s leader Nuryadin recalls, “We have faced challenges and the first months were the hardest. Even though it was just a small amount (about 12 cents) some members had a tough time paying the monthly contributions. For some, they didn’t have money; but for others, they were still building trust had second thoughts about contributing. But, by working together as a team, and with encouragement from CWS, we were able to overcome the challenges and prosper”. One of the ways that CWS supported the group was by helping ANUGRAH members grow their knowledge and business skills. Key among these were skills that help them expand their markets and diversify their products (so they don’t all have similar businesses and compete in a small market). Some women learned to process locally-sourced food to make chips, purple yam sticks, and moringa leaf snacks to sell; others learned new farming techniques in increase productivity. Other members borrowed funds to buy items in the larger town marked for resale in Bilau.
These days the ANUGRAH group’s capital is Rupiah 6,372,500 ($450). “We can see the success in our numbers. For me, the true success is in the changes that we experienced as a group. Now there is trust, enthusiasm and people work hard to repay their loans. As the group leader, I enjoy watching the women start businesses with simple productive activities”, concludes Nuryadin.
CWS is always happy to hear how grateful families are for our help, and to know that people want to keep learning to better their lives.
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