Crossing Conventional Boundaries

Sita Chaudhary of Gulariya, Bardiya starts her day at 5 a.m. – preparing her children for school, finishing up her household chores and then getting ready to ride her rickshaw throughout the dayher source of income. We arrived at the electronics repair store run by Sita’s husband as she escorted us through the busy streets of Gulariya in her three-wheeled vehicle. Quickly handing the rickshaw keys to her father-in-law she told us, “Now that I am here, he will take the rickshaw around town. That is how we make the most out of it,” smiling as we settled down to chat with her outside the store.

Sita has been a member of UNYC for the past 12 years. She took her first loan from UNYC ten years ago to open the electronics repair shop along with her husband. When UNYC introduced the Sakchyam Business Loan – designed with the help of UKaid Sakchyam Access to Finance Programme – Sita decided to request for a loan so that she could also provide to the family financially. Having received a broad background idea of how to run businesses from both UNYC’s Sakchyam Business Loan model – which requires clients to acquire skill development trainings, have knowledge about market structure and also asks for a proper business plan – and the experience of having helped her husband with the repair store, Sita wanted to channel the knowledge she had garnered towards something more financially rewarding. “The loan model was made more flexible towards clients who have already established a well earning business and earned themselves a good reputation making loan application a comparatively easier process for me,” shares Sita.  “And I wanted to be productive rather than staying idle. So I decided I would be a rickshaw rider.”

Educating her two daughters who are now 13 and 11, as she expressed, is of utmost importance. As someone who got married at the age of 16, Sita envisions a different future for her young daughters. “I won’t compromise on their education which means I will keep working until I need to,” she told us. With one electric and one patrol run rickshaw, she shares that she makes around Rs.1000 per day for providing rickshaw services across town. Everyday she saves a minimum of Rs. 500. “We save and then immediately invest what we have,” added her husband who firmly believes in taking bold steps when it comes to business.

We inquired if Sita had encountered other women rickshaw drivers in the area to which she replied there were barely any. “It is not that common to see a woman rickshaw driver. But I don’t see why women should shy away from anything so I do it regardless.” She later also told us that not having to depend on anyone else for financial support has been the best feeling. “I can buy what I need and I can think about my own contributions for the future of my family,” she told us as she posed sitting on her rickshaw for a photograph. While on the rickshaw, her face suggested a certain sense of comfort. Perhaps the composure came from confidence and the confidence had kept her going.

Sakchyam has been supporting UNYC to develop innovative loan models for providing better access to financial products and services. Under the partnership, UNYC has reached over 16,800 beneficiaries through various services.

Text/Photo by Saluja Siwakoti/Ayusha Nirola, Sakchyam Access to Finance Programme