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Jaya* is one of the most determined people you’ll ever meet. Whatever she sets her sights on, she achieves.

She’s a production manager, home owner, outstanding leader and is already planning ahead to her future retirement.

If she isn’t the definition of ‘empowerment’, then we don’t know who is!

Jaya is like many women here in Kolkata… she has many dreams for her life and for the lives of her children. But the difference is she has the support to see those dreams come true.

“I had saved some money on my own, and I hoped that I would be able to buy some land and build my own house. But I couldn’t do it,” Jaya says.

So in 2008, after working at Sari Bari for a little while, Jaya used her savings and took out an interest-free loan from Sari Bari, which meant she could purchase land.

“I could have gotten a loan from someone else, but I would have had to give them double the amount that I had taken out as a loan in the first place,” she says.

After paying off her loan in full, Jaya started saving money again, this time so she could build a house on her land.

“But as I began to think about the costs of building my own house, I realized it would cost me around 100,000 rupees. And I didn’t have that much money,” she shares. So again, Jaya combined her savings with another interest-free loan from Sari Bari, to make her house-owning dream a reality.

Jaya is now living out that dream.


She currently lives in her very own one-bedroom house, complete with it’s own pond and a newly-planted vegetable patch.

When she first moved into her house, which is located in a village near our Sari Bari prevention unit, Jaya didn’t have electricity. But she was determined to move in anyway. “My house isn’t finished yet, but I decided I would rather make it livable and move in, rather than keep paying 1,000 rupees a month in rent,” she says.

Every month, Jaya continues to set money aside to fix her house. She’s already made improvements, like building her own well so she doesn’t have to travel to get her water anymore. Her next goal is to build her own water pump.

Jaya has also laid the foundation to build a second room in the future. “I don’t have a formal kitchen right now – I’ve made a makeshift kitchen on the dirt using a tarp. But when I build my second room, then I’ll make myself a proper kitchen.”

Jaya loves living in her own home and the freedom it brings. “Before, when I lived in rented rooms, there was the uncertainty of how long I could stay, but not anymore,” she says.

“Having my own house gives me stability and security in my future. I have a son and a daughter, but you don’t know what will happen to them in the future. Having my own house gives me security that I’ll have a place to live and that I’ll be provided for.”

Jaya says she’s worked in many different places, but has loved working at Sari Bari that most. “There have been so many benefits in working here – if I had worked at another place, who knows… I probably wouldn’t have been able to take a loan like that [to build my own house].”

After completing training, Sari Bari works with each womandepending on need, to pay her debts. Sari Bari is often able to negotiate a lower total payoff with the money lenders (this applies to personal debts only—we do not buy women out of the sex trade). The individual then pays Sari Bari back at no interest with a monthly payment that fits within their budget.

Sari Bari also has a home loan program, which requires the women to save half upfront and Sari Bari will match the amount with a loan, which can be repaid at the same rate as the savings occurred.

*Name has been changed.

Written by Nicole Peck