Slum dwellers now have a reason to smile

Kathmandu, October 4:

Gone are the days when slum dwellers in Kathmandu used to live in plastic tents with leaking roofs, thanks to the three cooperative societies they have set up now.

The story dates back to the year 1997 when women in the slum areas formed a group and started saving Rs 2 a day. The savings reached Rs 0.2 million in 1999 and women registered for themselves a cooperative with Kathmandu Administration Office.

Troubles of such slum dwellers in the city have definitely eased after the cooperatives were set up.

Bamai Lama, 49, the president of Gyan Jyoti Cooperative (GYC), says: “There was a time when winds blew off our plastic tents and our roofs leaked every time it rained. Today, we can borrow cash amounting to Rs 50,000 without a collateral.” Lama owns a hut on the banks of the Bagmati at Sankhamul and has been living there for the past 33 years.

With a seven-member organising committee, a cooperative is divided into loan section, education section and accounts section. Members can borrow money for their children’s education and for investing in business. Members who have a deposit of up to Rs 10,000 are eligible to borrow Rs 50,000.

Indra Kumari Shrestha says her family had to face a lot of hardship to return Rs 5,000 borrowed by her husband. “Money is only a phone call away now. However, we must work hard to repay the loans on time. The cooperative has given us a sense of security.”

Almost 66 slum settlements in the city run three cooperative societies in three groups — Gyan Jyoti in Baneshwor, Pragati Uthan in Balaju and Nava Deep Jyoti in Maiju Bahal. These cooperative societies have so far collected Rs 1.6 million.

Gyan Jyoti Cooperative includes eight settlements in Anamnagar, Gairigaun, Bhimshengola, Sinamangal and Tripureshwor. The office opens on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Hukum Bahadur Lama, former president of Society for Preservation of Shelters and Habitations in Nepal (SPOSH-Nepal), said his organisation, with support from Lumanti, a non-government organisation, trained slum women on savings and organised awareness programmes in different slum settlements in Kathmandu.