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PO Box A524
Sydney South NSW 1235, Level 11, 227 Elizabeth Street Sydney NSW 2000

Telephone: 1800 812 164

© 2019 Opportunity International AustraliaABN 83 003 805 043

Sewing the future

By Opportunity International Australia

Manda at work on her sewing machine, purchased with the help of a small loan.

Manda at work on her sewing machine, purchased with the help of a small loan. Photo: Kim Landy

When Manda lost her husband to suicide, leaving her alone with two young children, she knew she needed a way to earn an income – fast.

She rented out a room in her home as a temporary way to make ends meet, and quickly found that her tenant had sewing skills – skills she would be willing to share. With the help of a small loan, Manda purchased a sewing machine and took sewing lessons from her tenant in exchange for rent.

“I didn’t know anything about sewing, not even how to stitch,” Manda says. “But I bought some fabric and tried it on my own, and after two days I learned how to sew.

“Our stomachs make us learn! So I learned very fast.”

Manda and her children

Manda and her children, Pratiksha (15) and Ashish (18). Photo: Kim Landy

Determined to see her children succeed, Manda worked long hours: 12 hours each day, seven days per week. Within a year she had repaid her initial loan for the sewing machine, after which she took out another loan that allowed her to build a toilet for the house and connect to running water.

The majority of Manda’s income now comes from the cloth bags she makes, created using materials bought from a nearby factory and sold on to businesses for a profit. In a single week she can produce around 300 bags. For four months of the year the factory closes, so during the off season she sells doormats made from recycled materials, using a technique handed down to her by her grandmother.

Manda’s thriving business ventures allow her to pay the school expenses for her two children—son Ashish, now 18, and daughter Pratiksha, 15—and provide for their daily needs. The income also allows her to make payments for a life insurance policy she has taken out to ensure her children will always be looked after, no matter what the future holds.

Small loans give families like Manda’s the chance to leave poverty behind and create a better future for the next generation. Learn more about microfinance here.