Every dry season when grazing was scarce, Jayasri was forced to borrow money to purchase fodder for the cow. The money lenders charged high interest rates on a debt that contributed to the family’s precarious situation.
Things began to change when Jayasri joined a group of ten local women being supported by Good Shepherd to increase their families’ incomes.
The women are part of a marginalised Dalit community in Andhra Pradesh in the south of India. Historically considered “untouchable” by other castes, Dalit women are among those most vulnerable to sexual abuse, violence, early child marriage and human trafficking.
The sisters and lay staff of the Good Shepherd Economic Justice Project are working with 220 women like Jayasri to help them access financial resources and establish small businesses. Good Shepherd supported the women in Jayasri’s group to access government subsidies to purchase buffalo feed.
“The seed money received through the Economic Justice Project saved us from the money-lenders,” says Jayasri
Jayasri also credits Good Shepherd for teaching her new animal husbandry skills that have improved the health of her buffalo. Having a healthier cow has increased the quality of the milk and led to a higher milk yield.
Along with the other women in her group, Jayasri is starting a dairy cooperative. By working together, the women can ensure that they have enough milk to sell to customers every day of the week. Being able to build up a regular trade will enable Jayasri to get a better price for her milk.
The income generated by the women’s dairy businesses has increased their autonomy. By establishing support groups, proving counselling and leadership training, educating the women in human and labour rights and promoting active citizenship, Good Shepherd is nurturing that newfound autonomy and encouraging the women to safeguard their own human rights.
“To be in a group strengthens me and makes feel proud too,” says Jayasri. “I take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the sisters, the Economic Justice Project staff and those who support this activity.”