Star Entrepreneur of 2011: Chitra
Chitra, 33, comes from the village Thiyagasamuthiram. At the age of 17, her parents arranged her marriage, without consulting her, to 32-year-old Dhanapaul. Her husband, to the neglect of his own wife and children, has dedicated himself and his earnings to his six sisters. He has taken out loans at an exorbitant rate for all six of their weddings. In order to help him pay off the loans, Chitra and her children, and even Dhanapaul, often went without meals. Now, at 52 Dahanpaul has chronic stomach pain, can barely eat, and is permanently ill. Fortunately, their son in 9th standard and daughter in 7th standard have been receiving free lunch and school books at their government school. Presently, six people — her husband’s elderly parents, her sickly husband, and two children — depend on Chitra for daily basic needs such as food, clothing, school supplies, and medical care. Chitra’s mud and thatch house has no electricity or toilet facility. She gets drinking water from a public tap and cooks her food using firewood.
Late last year, Chitra met SHWET staff member Jeyalakshmi and collected information about SHWET women’s Self Help Groups (SHGs). With restored hope, she recruited 19 ladies in need of support through micro credit. All the villagers had watched and admired her hard work and sincerity in caring for her sickly husband and the children. Her SHG members looked up to her and unanimously selected her as head of the group. They followed her lead in developing their reputations as worthy and reliable loan candidates.
After three months, Jeyalakshmi recommended the group for Prosperity Rings micro credit support. Chitra took a loan of Rs. 7000 to initiate a petty shop business. Petty shops are roadside stalls with limited products, which the village people normally buy. She started the shop on one corner of her house, and she is rotating the money in the shop, earning Rs. 150 a day (about $3). Chitra wants to expand her enterprise with her second loan and is confident that she would then be able to give treatment to her husband, educate her two children, and provide a “basic life.”
She still goes for agricultural labor work to supplement her funds, but she says through tears that after trials, hardship, sufferings, and torment in her married life, now SHWET, her group members, and Prosperity Rings have trusted her to initiate a business. “The bright side of my life has started.”