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How a small loan helped Bhikhiben transform her world

By Opportunity International Australia

When Bhikhiben was just a teenager, her mother died. Her passing brought not only deep sorrow, but almost unimaginable responsibility for Bhikhiben. As the eldest of five children, Bhikhiben had no other option but to quit school and become ‘mother’ to her siblings.

My father was alone and we had to manage farming as well – goats and cows… I was the only helping hand.”

Bhikhiben sitting in her home in Gujarat, India

"I wanted to study, but… my father told me I should manage the kitchen and the children… So I grew them up (sic)," said Bhikhiben.

Coming from a poor, rural village in Gujarat, India, Bhikhiben had only completed a few years of school.

I could write but not read… My father told me that I should not study: ‘Whatever you know is enough,’ he said.”

With no education behind her to help her get a job, Bhikhiben married young; her husband having only made it to 5th grade himself. The couple had children of their own and struggled under the weight of poverty, unable to afford even basic items for their family. As their eldest daughters grew up, they found themselves having to tell them a familiar story: there was no money to keep them in school.

But then a few years ago, a small loan gave Bhikhiben the hand up she needed to transform her world.

Bhikhiben with her young children eating a meal

With a small loan, Bhikhiben farms a new future

Buying a cow, she was able to grow her own small dairy farm, which today has both cows and buffalo. The income from the milk is helping Bhikhiben break the cycle of poverty in her family’s life.

Her first priority? Education. She is determined for her children to get the education she went without.

"We had a tough time before I took up the loan, we are in a much better place right now… We paid fees, bought clothes, books, all the things related to studies,” she says. “None of my children misses school. They are clever in their studies.”

Bhikhiben now has a thriving agricultural business

Empowered through the small loan, she has even joined a dairy cooperative alongside other women in her community. Today, you can find butter made with the milk from the cooperative in some of India’s largest hotels.

"My husband feeds the cows. I milk the cows, bring grass for them… The salary comes every 10th day… We sell the cow dung as well… Having cows is good because we have lots of benefits. We make sweets from the milk, and a lot of by-products from the milk, like paneer."

The ripple effect on her family is clear. Her children are thinking big for the future, dreaming of becoming doctors, teachers and police when they grow up.

Bhikhiben's kids say what they want to be when they grow up

Bhikhiben’s story is testament to the power of a small loan. A loan doesn’t just help transform the life of a single woman, but the lives of her entire family and of the generations to come.

[Before the loan], we couldn’t afford good food, clothing, education. Now that I’m earning… life is on the mend. My children say that mother, you go through all the hardships right now but when we study well, we will give you all the happiness.”

If you would like to give a hand up to women like Bhikhiben this end of financial year, please know just how much of an impact your donation can have.

With a hand up from you, she can change her world

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