Star Entrepreneur of 2012: Mariyammal
Mariyammal comes from the village Pasupathykovil. In 1990, without asking her opinion, she was given in marriage at the age of 19 to Mahalingam, a drunkard. He worked as a bullock cart rider and earned Rs.200 per day. He spent Rs.150 on alcohol and gave the remaining Rs.50 (52 Rs = $1) to his wife for family expenses.
The couple soon had a baby boy and girl. Due to liver damage from over-consumption of alcohol, Mahalingam could not work regularly. He was often hospitalized and finally, after he was taken to a rehabilitation centre at Thanjavur, he died in the year 2000.
During those ten years, the family lived in a thatched hut on the husband’s family common property. Upon his death, his family members chased her and the children from the thatched hut. Mariyammal and her parents sought help. After local leaders proved useless, the woman Sub Inspector of the police station, who understood the case, reinstated them in the thatched hut.
Since Mariyammal’s husband’s family would have nothing to do with her, socially or financially, she started going for agricultural coolie work weeding paddy fields to earn Rs. 40 in the morning and Rs. 20 in the afternoon — not enough to feed, clothe, and educate her children.
Seeing her suffering, Mariyammal’s parents helped her by financing her son’s Ananathan’s education. He attended a catering institution for 18 months, but quit his studies to work as a hotel server so he could help educate his sister, Suganthi, who is now studying for her Bachelor of Commerce at Bharat College in Thanjavur. The combined income was not enough for her education and for a bare existence.
Mariyammal’s elderly parents had a tiffin centre at the main road of the same village. Tiffin is a light meal, often carried in a stack of small pails as takeaway. They offered to retire and let Mariyammal run the tiffin centre as her own. She would not need money for construction or utensils, only enough to carry on the centre.
During that time, Mariyammal approached SHWET staffmember Subatha with a group of 14 women seeking to form a Women Self Help group. Along with eight other members, she became eligible for a loan of Rs. 10,000 from Prosperity Rings for running the tiffin centre. Mariyammal now makes Rs. 250-300 profit every day. She is recognized and respected among the villagers and among the group members. No one labels her as a widow, but all are coming to the tiffin centre (women, men, children, leaders, elders).
Determined that her daughter should not suffer as she did, Mariyammal is exemplary among the group members, repaying her loan while extending support to help more women living below poverty in her group and the villages. She is thankful to Prosperity Rings and SHWET for giving her hope and the opportunity to embark on the brighter side of her life. — Written by SHWET staff, edited by PR.