An Exemplary Act: How Dammari Kumari Helped Her Family Out of Poverty

June 21, 2019

A resident of the Rupali village in municipality number 11 of Dadeldhura district, Dammari Kumari Aeir lived in a small makeshift house in one corner of the ancestral land with her husband, two children and her mother-in-law. The livelihood of the family of five depended on the farming of the same land.

The produce from the land, which has no irrigation facility, could sustain the family for hardly six months. Lack of educational qualification or skills meant that neither she nor her husband could get a good job. Daily, hard labour was their only resort. To escape poverty Dammari’s husband was compelled to go abroad to find a job. While her husband laboured in a foreign land, she took care of the family and farming at home.

Although her husband had gone abroad to fulfil the needs of the family, his earnings were barely enough to educate the kids and sustain the daily household expenses, let alone save money for medical needs or emergencies. While his salary remained the same, the cost of living was getting higher. The unchanging situation of her family’s economic status made her realize that her family would remain in poverty if she didn’t take any action.

Lack of qualification and skills were not her only challenges, in the traditional society of far-west region women working outside their homes to earn a living is a taboo. However, determined to not let her family suffer in poverty, Dammari took the bold decision to open a small general store (kirana) to help her family. It took her a while to convince her family to let her earn money. With this obstacle taken care of, she faced another hurdle – she didn’t have the capital to start a business.

She approached family and friends for financial support, but no one was willing to give her a loan. She even asked the local moneylenders but they wouldn’t give a loan without collateral. Yet, she didn’t lose heart.

She thought of joining a microfinance group, which provides loans without any collateral and saving facility for women from economically disadvantaged backgrounds who are interested in setting up a business of their own. In July 2017, she became a member of one such group from Chhimek Laghubitta Bitiya Sansthan in her village.

A month later she took her first loan – Rs 40,000 to rent a room in Sallaghari Chowk, situated on the Dadheldhura – Accham road, to open her shop. Because there were no other general stores in the area, her business took off better than expected and her profits soared. Upon seeing this, her family began to approve of her endeavour. She was able to pay back her loan with interest within 6 months and even took a second loan of Rs. 50,000 to invest in her shop.

As her business grew, it made her realise that her family now had a good enough source of income and her husband need not labour in another country anymore. So, she convinced him to come back to Nepal and help her run the store. With her husband to help in the business, she could manage time between her shop and home better. The way she managed to not only start but run a business successfully which helped her husband come back home is an exemplary story.

She has taken two more loans of Rs. 2,00,000 each to expand her business. Her one room shop has now expanded to two rooms and she even has a storeroom. The variety of products available in her shop have also increased to include cosmetics, cold drinks and snacks etc.

The growth is not just limited to her business, her hard work has improved her family’s economic status as well. Her children are studying in a boarding school and their new concrete house is under construction.

Once her business started running smoothly and her family’s economic status got a little better she began to think about securing her future. “I didn’t want my family’s situation to go back to the way it was, I knew I’d have to start saving,” shared Dammari. Thus, she started depositing a certain amount every month as saving in Chhimek.

Her husband is proud of his wife’s dedication and success that helped their family escape from abject poverty. After learning from her own experience Dammari advises everyone to adopt a better financial habit, “It is important that people learn and follow good financial practices, and that includes not taking loans from informal channels like local money lenders who charge high interest. Instead, go to formal financial institutions like Chhimek which have simple loan procedure, with reasonable interest rates and no collateral.”

UKaid Sakchyam Access to Finance Programme (Sakchyam) is committed to connecting the rural poor, disadvantaged groups (DAGs), and women to formal financial service providers in order to enable them with choices to save, borrow, invest, and earn. Efficiency and sustainability of the financial services/products are vital while enhancing access to finance for people living in remote areas. Sakchyam believes a paradigm shift is needed in the microfinance sector with the adoption of new technology, helping it achieve organisational efficiency and expand its outreach in a more self-sustainable manner.

With Sakchyam’s support Chhimek Laghubitta Laghubitta Bittiya Sanstha Ltd has launched tablet banking programme through female agents called “Digital Mahila” to efficiently deliver financial services in the remote areas and increase its outreach.