Star Entrepreneur of 2014: Sammiyammal
Sammiyammal broke out of her captive marriage when she became widowed. Her parents, being poor, could not give her a good marriage and wed her to an older man as his second marriage. He did not allow her to go out and work, but only to take care of him. He was untrusting, jealous, and always watchful of her.
After 19 years of marriage, Sammiyammal had a baby son and was allowed to take on agricultural daily labor under the hot sun. She had no support from family. Her parents died and her brother and sister, though living in her village, were very poor. Her husband was sick for 13 years and finally passed away at the age of 70.
From birth, she had never eaten three meals a day. All her earnings went to sustain her parents and “give life to my husband.” Now she was free to take training at a coconut farm on processing coconut, making coconut leaf twisting, and making fire wood of the waste. She began coconut leaf twisting into thatch for roofing. As a laborer she was earning Rs 200 ($1=Rs 62) for producing 100 thatch a day.
Sammiyammal watched as the women Self-Help Group members in her village were doing well. She was enthused about joining them. But her courageous idea of having her own business meant she needed capital. After meeting with field staff, she joined the group and started saving regularly. She trained in group discipline, internal member support, and repayment discipline. She then wrote a business plan to lease 100 coconut trees on a farm for Rs 7500 a year, and her plan was accepted.
After building a small hut on the land she leased as a result of the loan advanced by Prosperity Rings, she now collects and weaves the dried coconut leaves and twists them into thatch six hours a day. She sells her product from her home — 100 per day at Rs 5 each. There is huge demand for thatch, so she will employ other women to expand the business.
As a member of the group, the others find her to be exemplary and ideal with her hard work and participation. Sammiyammal says, with tears, “I was an empty vessel and no one trusted me to give me even Rs 100, but Prosperity Rings helped me come up in life. I am ever grateful. I would like to travel for a longer period till my poverty goes out and I will construct a decent house for me to sleep and my only son to sit and study properly. He is progressing well, doing eleventh standard in a government secondary school. This is a good bus; it will take me to the destination I wanted to reach. I don’t want to miss this bus.”