Part 1- Interview with Irene in Odisha.
While these are only two states in India and they are not representative of the nation as a whole, we want to share our own experiences and hopefully it sheds light on the diversity and rich culture of India. Irene is currently in Bhubaneswar, Odisha and about to travel to the western part of the state, and Eileen is living in Impahl, Manipur.
Top 3 things that you always notice while roaming your neighborhood (i.e. for me, military, stares & fossilized garbage). It’d put in something positive but you get the picture.
Cows – the other day I saw two cows fighting in the middle of a major road, stopping all traffic
Sweets, sweets, sweets! There are shops selling sweets everywhere. I especially love the traditional Oriya cake called Chhenapoda. It’s a homemade cottage cheese cake, baked for several hours to have a nice brown color on the outside. I was served Chhenapoda for the first time at a branch office. It’s only available in Orissa and it was so delicious!
Wedding signs – new couples draw wedding announcements on the wall in front of their homes. There are always really colorful and beautiful.
(picture of cows)
(picture of shop, cake)
(picture of wall with wedding sign)
When you need a “comforts of home” experience, what do you do?
I love coffee and people mostly drink tea here. While there are no major coffee chains like Starbucks, there is a local coffee shop called Café Coffee Day that I like and their lattes are pretty great.
I’m Chinese and I’ve been missing authentic Chinese food, especially dumplings. I found the Indian equivalent, called Momos. It’s dipped in chili sauce, and also incredibly delicious.
What type of work is common in this region for Kiva borrowers?
The region is very diverse in its topography and culture. The state borders the Sea of Bengal in the east, while the inland area is more mountainous. Chilika Lake, one of the largest brackish lakes here, is the source of major business activities for the villages around the lake. Many villagers, including Kiva borrower, work as fishermen, and women also help to prepare, dry and sell the fish in markets.
(picture of boats and Chilika Lake)
Other common businesses include agriculture and dairy production. Many of the SHGs invest in sugarcane and rice cultivation, many purchase cows and goats and sell the milk. Another interesting business is religious and temple related industry, including sculptors making statutes and women making crafts with coconut coir, baskets, and flowers wreaths for temple worship.
(picture of women in front of their sugarcane field)
(picture of toy horse made of coir)
(picture of statutes prepared for Durga)
What are the main strengths of your MFI (or mission statement), how have you experienced these in the field?
People’s Forum has been operating in the state of Odisha, one of the poorest states in India, for almost 20 years. What struck me was their dedication to serving rural communities that are the most marginalized. In the partnership with Kiva, People’s Forum is dedicated to serve the communities such as widows, single mothers, people living with physical disabilities, and persons living in leprosy colonies. They also have plans to work with the transgender community and women rescued from trafficking.