23 years ago, a baby girl was born in Jorakaram village in Jharkhand, India. Her parents lovingly named her “Muskan,” meaning smile in Hindi.
Growing up in intergenerational poverty, Muskan Devi was married at an early age, and circumstances did not allow her to even complete primary schooling. Before joining Trickle Up, Muskan struggled to survive as the sole breadwinner of her five-person family. Her husband has a physical disability and her sister-in-law has an intellectual disability, preventing them from contributing to household income.
Lacking the necessary skills to start her own business, Muskan’s only option was to occasionally work as daily wage laborer in construction. When food was especially scarce, she would work for 7 days a week, leaving her two toddlers at home.
Due to gender discrimination, she would only earn 140 Rs. ($2.11) per day, whereas male laborers doing the same job would earn 200 Rs ($3). Though she was entitled to receive 35 kg of rice under the Public Distribution System (PDS), she only received 30 kg, a common issue among women in her situation. Isolated from her community and with little political power, Muskan was trapped in a cycle of poverty and focused only on making it through each day.
When heavy rains washed off the mud and hay roofing of her house, Muskan was forced to mortgage her small patch of land in order to repair her roof.
However, Muskan’s smile brightened when she was selected to participate in the Trickle Up project in her community.
As an initial step to help her build resilience and self-sufficiency, Muskan joined a women’s Self Help Group (SHG) in her village. Through the group, she learned regular saving habits and even opened her own personal savings account at a bank. But the group was more than just a place to save, her fellow members also helped her come out of the vacuum of social isolation and begin to build critical support systems to rely on in times of scarcity.
With her seed capital grant and regular coaching by program staff and Community Resource Persons on livelihood options and financial inclusion, Muskan started her new business with a broad smile.
Muskan decided to invest in goat rearing and vegetable cultivation in a nursery at her home. She strongly believes that this will not only help her improve her life, but also enable her to pay back her mortgage to the moneylender, providing her with economic and mental relief.
Today Muskan says, “Indeed, we will go ahead, avenues are opening to proceed further. Earlier, we used to only think of doing something better, but with the support of [the program], it seems we will definitely change our lives for the better.”
Muskan Devi of Jorakaram, Jharkhand, India
Investing in her future, learning to save, smiling brighter