BANGALORE: In a drought-prone part of north Karnataka, which has witnessed several farmer suicides, a programme now aims to educate rural women to become self-reliant and financially independent. A mobile B-school, run by the Maharashtra-based Mann Deshi Business School in the interiors of Hubli and Dharwad districts, is training women with little or no formal education, in skills like basic computer usage, tailoring, dairy management and goat rearing.
Started in September 2007, the Mann Deshi B-school supported by the Deshpande Foundation has seen 1,547 women graduate and avail micro-finance loans from the Mann Deshi Mahila Sarkari Bank, a cooperative bank, which offers loans to rural women to start or expand their business.
The mobile B-school bus has four laptops, study material and a few tailoring machines. Monthly classes are held in the bus in each village to a batch of 20. “We provide training in a range of technical, practical, marketing and finance-related subjects. These skills will allow women to start, expand or own businesses supported by micro loans given by our cooperative bank,” Rekha Kulkarni, chief executive officer, Mann Deshi Udyogini said.
Recently, 15 women from Hubli’s Gokula village underwent training at the B-school and seven of the graduates have already opened their own business using the micro loans.
Chandravva, a native of Gokula, did a course on operational methods used in a dairy farm, including ways to make and sell milk products. She, along with two other classmates, applied for a micro loan of Rs5,000 each and opened a dairy. “This kind of training will help us earn a decent livelihood. I took this loan because of the low interest rates,” she said.
A reasonable fee structure has made the B-school courses popular among locals. The fee for the computer course is Rs100 and Rs50 for tailoring. Four trained teachers impart training and are paid 60% of the course fee. The cooperative bank has been issuing micro loans of Rs5,000 to villagers on the basis of a daily repayment of Rs30.
Most villagers make a living as fruit-sellers or street vendors. Hence, the loans are availed to fund businesses such as setting up a stall or a shop. “Muslims have a strong presence in most villages. The doorstep delivery of education convinced many Muslim families to allow women to join the B-school,” Sheela Mundot, programme coordinator, Mann Deshi, said.
The B-school also organises free veterinary classes for villagers wanting to learn cattle care. While this programme is aimed at educating women, men have also shown an interest in it. “During holidays, many high school boys wanted to join our computer course,” Mundot added.
7 months ago