I had always a passion and dream to help alleviate suffering especially among women in my home state of Odisha, India. I came to US in 1973 after getting married to Professor Subhendra Dev Mahanti, a Physics professor at the Michigan State University. After raising our two children and taking early retirement from a job as a Computer Program Analyst in 1997, I decided to pursue my dream and work for the most deprived population of the society. Though I did not have any formal background or training in social work or a Business Management degree, my 10 years of experience working in grassroot projects with different organizations in India (1997-2007) inspired me to find a better way to reach the poorest of the poor.
I realize that, the condition of the poorest of poor (especially women) has not changed, as it has been over centuries. These marginalized women cannot go to the Government or any commercial banks or to the micro finance Institutions for their emergency needs. The only option for them is to borrow from the money lenders at the minimum interest rate of 120 % or more per year. The poor do not have the choice when there is a dead body in the house and there is no money to buy wood for the cremation, for the medical treatment for the family, to buy food for a day, and to send children to school. If they have the rare opportunity to participate in microfinance, it is hard for them to pay back their weekly or monthly commitment as is required. Sometimes, the situation forces them to take another loan to pay back their previous loan. Because of this dire situation for so may impoverished women, I founded the Nano Finance system.
Sari (pictured left) will never understand the effect of her simple and niave story to her Nani (founder) in one afternoon. Her story insprired the founder to implement the Nano Finance concept and start the Aamara Biswas and Our Biswas.The Nano Finance concept is a system where small interest free loans are given to the women for their emergency needs, livelihood, children’s education, and health care. It offers a payback period of one full year. The organization, Aamara Biswas (Our Trust) was started in December 2007 to implement the Nano Finance system. Aamara Biswas stands for; “Women helping women through Nano Finance” and it is their returned money which is re-circulated to give loans to themselves or others in the similar situation. The word “BISWAS,” in the Hindi language of India, means “TRUST". That word therefore seemed appropriate for the name of the organization.
Some of my friends who regularly supported and believed in my work in Odisha for many years encouraged me to start a similar organization in U.S. Our Biswas (Our Belief In the Services of Women of All Societies) was established to empower the women of the world who are in extreme poverty through the Nano Finance system. The organization was formally incorporated as a Michigan nonprofit corporation on September 10, 2007, but deferred receiving or spending funds until it got 501(c) (3) tax exemption status on August 20, 2009.
The book To India with Tough Love by Jaya Kamlani published on June 6