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Women in Meghalaya make micro credit banking possible
Where there is a will, there is a way. And the women of Meghalaya have just proved that. In a story of motivation and inspiration, they have formed a rural banking system that has made it easier for villagers to avail loan.
WOMEN IN Meghalaya have formed the first of its kind bank in Meghalaya, a rural banking system based on the concept of micro-credit system. It is the North East Region Institute for Micro credit (NIM)-Banking Institution and Learning Centre of Excellence for Holistic Aspiration of Mothers (BILCHAM), an apex self help group (SHG) federation.
 
Though this bank started in October 2006 in Garo hills, the system got underway with the formation of woman SHGs in the model villages of West Garo Hills Community Resource Management Society (WGHCRMS). The system took off under the initiative of the North East Region Community Resource Management Programme (NERCORMP), a government of India project, and International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD).
 
The BILCHAM targets the poorest and excluded households/individuals in every village. The poorest families in most of the rural areas have always been excluded and marginalised in the process of rural development. The women from this section of the society have come together through the IFAD project.
 
The formation of SHGs has tremendously improved the economic condition of the rural women. At the beginning, the organisation had only Rs 1000 in its account. But today they now have more than Rs 65 lakhs. This has been possible due to an increase in the number of SHGs. At present they have more than 847 SHGs, formed under twenty-five federations comprising of ten community and rural development blocks spread across the west, south and east Garo Hills. The groups are required to form federations before registering under the banner of BILCHAM. 
 
BILCHAM is a Garo word for traditional bamboo torch. True to its name, it is giving light to many families by providing loans for income generation.
 
This bank is collaborating with the NERCORMP wherein the new name adopted is NIM – BILCHAM. This affiliates them to the entire North East region network of NERCORMP promoted women SHGs federations. 
 
These are located in the west Khasi hills, Ukhrul and Senapati districts of Manipur and Karbi Anglong and NC hills districts of Assam.
 
Currently, the key federation leaders of NIM-BILCHAM are actively engaged in taking this concept to every household of Garo hills- including the south and east Garo hills.  
  
The institution is encouraging the concept with a common vision to include at least one woman from every household in the Garo hills with an expected target of over 35,000 SHGs, although the present figure is 3000 SHGs.
 
The federation and the SHGs would be the key vehicles of a joint development venture with the ideal participatory partnership between the government, the community and the NGOs. 
 
This model of development, pioneered by the government of India and IFAD project of NERCORMP, is rapidly being replicated through the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) and also through other schemes like ‘Swarnajayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana’, ‘Sampoorna Grameen Rozgar Yojana,’ Backward Region Grant Fund, Grameen Bhandars, etc. 
 
A nominal fee of Rs 500 has to be paid by each federation for enrollment. To obtain loan, the individual has to be a member of SHGs. The interest rate is a lowly one per cent.
 
 It is difficult for the villagers to obtain loan from banks or other financial institution, as they have to fulfill certain criteria. The BILCHAM has given them an opportunity to obtain loan easily and at a very low interest rate.
 
Loans are mostly given for income generation activities. As it is in its early stages, the bank provides a loan of about Rs 1000 to each SHGs and Rs 10,000 each to federation and NaRMG clusters (formed under WGHCRMS/ IFAD). Eserdina Marak, president of the institution informed, that the loans are being repaid very soon.
 
The SHGs members, under the banner of BILCHAM, have definitely something to boost off. It is this confidence that will keep them going. The organisations success is evident in the rapid manner in which they are completing their loans obtained from other financial institutions.
 
This is a motivation story, which proves that women in the North East are not left out, as India is marches towards development.
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