Saturday, November 26, 2011

Week 2 in Saurath, Bihar

I'm finally at my project site in the ganv of Saurath. Saurath is a small village in Bihar, about 6 hours away from the main city of Patna, and it has a population of less than 5,000. As is typical with most rural areas, access to education and resources is very limited here, particularly for women. What makes the situation more complicated though, are the many issues that exist around caste and one's social image and reputation.

Take for example, the upper caste business owner we met this week. Now this man's wife won an idea competition some months ago to start a masala micro-enterprise. Since the initial idea and micro-loan submission, though, the woman's involvement has drastically declined and there's been no real work done to date. In reality, they have indeed faced issues in finding cost-effective packaging to maintain margin. But I also found out that there's another concern that revolves around his daughter's upcoming marriage. See, for some, having this masala business has a certain social stigma attached to it. There's concern that they may not find the right match if he appears to be a "lowly masala-vala." But,as we discussed in our meeting with him this week, why not try to focus on this business' ability to elevate his his family's financial position (essentially an indicator of "increased marriage-ability").

And as I've seen in talking to many of the people here, a child's wedding is often the main concern in any family decision, financial or otherwise. So many are willing to spend extra money that they do not have in order to throw a fancy wedding to show the rest of the village. And for many, the extreme financial burden this places on the family prevents them from making other investments (educational, business, personal etc.), that could really raise their family's standard of living and uplift them.

On the project front, we are making progress slowly but surely. The women's shop is set to launch in less than 2 weeks and there's still a lot to do! But, more on this a bit later...

For now, here are some pictures from my first few days in the village.

A few scenes from across Saurath and nearby villages:

My visit to a papad family business in a nearby village to understand their process and production capabilities:

Me at the office with a few new friends:

1 comment:

  1. Nice pictures yaar! Keep the entries coming .... I want to see some more pics of the food you are eating!