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Micro-financing to end women exploitation, eliminate poverty

Thursday, November 05, 2009 09:53:44 AM, Aleem Faizee,

Ozma Nahid at her outlet during Peace Conference in Mumbai


'When London, Singapore and Tokyo can have Islamic banks, why not India?'': "When London, Singapore and Tokyo can have Islamic banks, why not Mumbai and Kochi", .... Read Full


Mumbai: Life for 17-year old Sameera Shaikh and her family was full of despair a few months back. Poverty, exploitation at every level, no one to lend a helping hand but many ready to take them for a ride and a long battle everyday for a meager amount. Yet going to bed without having enough food. In the midst of such a trauma and daily sufferings, thinking of education and getting admission in a college was no less than a crime for Sameera.

In Sameera's own words, "We were wandering here and there without knowing the exact destination. But after we met Ozma Aapa, mano hamein raasta mil gaya. Everything changed ever since."

The Rescuer


Sameera was talking of Ozma Nahid to give credit for this dramatic turnaround. Ozma Nahid - the dynamic lady working since last twenty years for strengthening the skilled but desolated women in the Muslim dominated areas in and around Mumbai. In a perfect endeavor to address the issues pertaining to these women, Ozma Nahid introduced a unique plan.

"During a survey we found these women skilled, ambitious, honest and very hardworking. Still, just because they did not have resources and required funds, they were exploited by everyone", Ozma Nahid recalled. She was talking to in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of Dr. Zakir Naik led IRF's Peace Conference in Mumbai.

"Hence", she continued, "We decided to provide them the needed funds and resources. Simultaneously, we took upon ourselves marketing of the finished products and purchases of the raw materials."

The Idea

As per her Micro Financing arrangement - that she termed as first of its kind in India that too totally on non interest basis - Ozma Nahid under the banner of Iqra International Women Alliance (IIWA) offers two options:

First, IIWA lends Rs.2000 as an initial amount to the women that they have to return back in an installment of Rs.100 per month. Using the given 2000 rupees, the women either purchase sewing machines or other needed items. IIWA gives them the raw materials to manufacture headscarf, portable and folding Jaye Namaaz - the special mat used for Namaaz, Makwana - the special garment used by Muslim ladies to cover the heads, Juzdaan - the special covering used to cover the Holy Quran and other hand made garments.

Second is like a job work wherein IIWA provides the skilled women the needed raw materials to manufacture the above items, and in return gives them a share in the profit besides giving them labour charges immediatetely.

Ozma Nahid's Economic Triangle...

"I have an idea wherein we should have few NGOs focusing on searching the skilled women and providing them suitable working environment, the corporate and companies giving them the job and lastly the media fulfilling its responsibly by highlighting the whole idea."

"In both the cases, the skilled women work like a sleeping partners. Along with giving them handsome share in net profit, IIWA also gives them job work charges that is more than ten times what they are normally given in the market", Ozma Nahid added.

To begin with, Ozma Nahid implemented her Non-Interest based Micro Finance scheme at Kurla, Govandi, Ghatkopar and Mahim - all Muslim dominated areas in Mumbai, and also in nearby Bhiwandi. In just three months when she introduced her scheme at these five places, 2000 skilled women joined her within no time. Whereas more and more women are coming everyday to grab the unique opportunity.

In terms of business too the arrangement is working exceptionally well. Today, the garments readied by this unique home industry have buyers not only in local markets but also have a good number from abroad.

"We are using quality raw materials, and combined with the hard work and dedication that the skilled women work with, our finished products are excellent at par", says Ozma Nahid adding, "If we talk of just Headscarf, we are exporting 200,000 pieces every month besides supplying half the number in local markets."

Awesome, to say the least. However, considering the vast experience and impressive success record in the field that this dynamic lady has, the above turnaround for thousands of families is just tip of a huge iceberg.

"In last twenty years, I was at the helm of affairs at Saboo Siddik's Ladies Technical Institution in Mumbai, Asslah International at Mumbra and Ideal Education Institute at Imam Bara in Dongri.

Everywhere, I made it sure that the women - specially the weaker who face risk of exploitation the most - get the maximum from my plans", said Ozma Nahid. "And to achieve my targets I never compromised with anything, and anyone."

The Economic Triangle

In due course, it is not surprising to see the experts in the field calling her for an advice or two. Recently, by her innovations she in fact stumped the Editor of Economic Times - Times Group's leading business daily. In Ozma Nahid's own words:

"When it comes to women, policy makers never consider the limitations that women specially the Muslim women have. Hence, howsoever perfect schemes they design they fail when it comes to implementation. To Economic Times Editor in a meeting I said, I have an idea wherein we should have few NGOs focusing on searching the skilled women and providing them suitable working environment, the corporate and companies giving them the job and lastly the media fulfilling its responsibly by highlighting the whole idea."


"If one maintains this triangle", she said, "I don't think poverty will remain a hurdle anymore."


To prove her point, Ozma Nahid has the families like Sameera's. Sameera, a XIIth Commerce student now is fearlessly and confidently pursuing her education at SNDT University's Ghatkopar College in Mumbai. While assisting Ozma Nahid at her handmade garment outlet at the Halal Expo during the Peace Conference in Mumbai, Sameera is all hopeful to attain the career she had dreamt for.

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