We have learned to think only of ourselves out of fear of life – how to study in a good institution, how to be successful in life. As a result of thinking too much about ourselves, we have forgotten to think about other people. The biggest gap has been created here. If the illustrious of the country do not think about their own countrymen then who will think? Our society is divided into two parts – a group of people who are worried day and night about feeding their families and a group of people who have no one to think about, they are forlorn and neglected. We have created this organization called Mukti from the responsibility towards the society and the country to serve the distressed people. In this way, the relentless efforts and hard work of the eminent people associated with Mukti spread all over the country and abroad have helped this institution to grow on a large scale in West Bengal and abroad.
Now, I will acquaint you with the specific activities of Mukti that we can do here. We can do two kinds of work here – 1) empowerment of women which has become more and more prevalent since Amphan and 2) women’s rights. Many of you may know, that many girls from the Sundarbans and North-East Indian states are trafficked with the promise of offering jobs and then are sold as sex workers in the states of Punjab and Haryana, where the ratio of men and women is much higher. Traffickers can easily do this because most people in the Sundarbans live in dire financial straits. During the pandemic the percentage of trafficking was low. But we know that post-pandemic the percentage of trafficking will rise at an alarming rate. To stop the catastrophe we have to think about empowering women. You will be glad to know that 30,000 women joined MCDF. I will discuss three topics from which you will get to know how MCDF is unique from other SHGs and microfinance.
At first, we create SHG with 10 women. In terms of merit, one of them is elected as leader of the group. A group is formed again with those leaders. This group of leaders acts as an organization – they work for education, health, women empowerment, prevention of trafficking and business development. Male members support them from behind. Mukti provides them nutritious food, makes them aware of menstrual and maternal health, skill development training, provisions loans for doing business at the end of the training, raises awareness about gender equality through training and so on. I am overwhelmed to see that Ms. Sardar has been elected as Councilor and is representing womanhood.
Now, I shall make clear the loan structure of MCDF. Mukti will provide you with a loan for livelihood training. Banks do not give loans without mortgages. If you do not repay the loan on time, the bank will sell your property. You will not get the benefit of a bank loan because you do not have any fixed income. Those who have microfinance will give you a loan but will ask you for the interest of two rupees or three rupees per month. If you pay three rupees, the interest is 36%. An employed person has to pay 8 or 10% interest whereas a woman has to pay 36% interest to start a business. What kind of social service is it? Instead, it is a deception only in the name of social service. Microfinance is like the usury of the past.
According to the loan structure of Mukti, we encourage women for savings. In addition to the savings, donations from our well-wishers are provided to the women to start a business for a year. No interest is charged from them. After one year the equivalent money is returned to that benefactor. This is how MCDF works. On the other hand, we encourage them to save 1% of their earnings as interest so that in the future if Mukti can not be able to help them then the groups can stay steady. Out of the total 12%, 4% are returned to women and the remaining 8% is deposited with the leader group. The purpose of Mukti is to make these groups self-sufficient so that they do not have to depend on Mukti. The work of Mukti is to provide them livelihood training, interest-free loan reimbursement, to teach them how to make groups, to make them aware of their rights so that they can protest against child marriage, trafficking in women and gambling etc.
We implement our entire project through them. Relief distribution during disasters and oxygen concentrators during the pandemic have been distributed through the Presidents and secretaries of these small organizations. We are having 25-30 such organizations led by women.
With MCDF we are also having Mukti Support Schools through which we are providing tuition to underprivileged students. The goal of these support schools is to find all the children who did not get access to digital education during the epidemic, have dropped out of school, in post-pandemic time to find them and encourage them to return to school again. We have identified that 150-200 students are going through this critical situation. For them, we have started a morning session tuition class where the teachers are helping them to overcome all the backlogs. After attending the tuition class the students go to their schools. Mukti provides salary to teachers and maintenance costs of the support schools. Mukti provides the major part of the teachers’ salary and the rest (very minimal) is taken from the students. Unemployed yet qualified youths are getting jobs through MSS.
During the pandemic, we have distributed 2,000 oxygen The teachers of our school have also helped us to distribute them. Why they have engaged themselves in such a work that is mainly the job of doctors or nurses? The impact of the pandemic has been so severe that only the health care facilities were unable to serve the patients. People from every sphere of life stretch their hands to help the affected. Teachers are still confused about how to keep the education system steady after the post-pandemic. They can enlist the help of some unemployed qualified youth to start school. This is exactly the process Mukti Support School is following. There are some projects of Mukti in regards to that too. I briefly told you about some of our projects of Mukti. Please contact Mukti if you wish. Thank you and stay healthy.