Sumathi’s struggle for social security

13 February 2013 | Learn about Sumathi’s success

Valanthurai Village in Ramanathapuram, Tamilnadu recorded the highest suicides in South India in 2009, where 10 persons from this village, out of which 8 were men, committed suicide. The reason for the high suicidal rate was poverty due to lack of job opportunities and lack of social security. Only 10% of the men of this village were employed, and women who were active as home makers were not supposed to undertake labour, even though they faced financial problems. It is also to be noted that Ramanathapuram district has one of the lowest literacy rates in the state of Tamil Nadu.

In 2008, ECLOF India was the first organization to intervene in this village and meet the women. They worked to encourage women to take up small jobs, make hand work at home and teach them ways to support their families.  Credits were delivered through the Self Help Group (SHG) methodology and ECLOF’s work had an important impact in women empowerment where women started to support their families both morally and financially, and the men started accepting women going out of their house to work.

Sumathi, a talented young lady, was left by her husband, and as a single parent faced discrimination in India’s rural society that could have driven her to committing suicide. However, Sumathi was lucky as her parents gladly took her and her child back into their home.

She did not wish to be a burden on her poor parents and in an effort to support herself she joined a group of women who started a SHG named as Sakthi Self Help Group. She availed of her first loan of Rs.5,000/- (US $ 95) in August 2008 buying a tailoring machine and undertaking piece jobs [1] from garment shops and working at home. She made a profit of Rs.3,000/- (US $ 57) from her first loan, and from her savings and a second loan of Rs.10,000/- (US $ 190) in January 2010, she bought material and started stitching readymade inner skirts and designer blouses for women in her locality.  She progressed to a third loan of Rs.15,000/- (US$ 285) in January 2011 which she used to purchase a second tailoring machine and spares for her first machine. She also started giving tailoring classes for the girls of the neighborhood, and now has four students and makes a profit of R.7,000/- (US $ 133 per month). The fourth loan of Rs.18,000/- (US $ 342) and 5th loan of Rs.20,000/- (US $ 380) were invested in buying beads and material for the blouses.

Sumathi has been very successful and she has been able to build a decent house, she is taking care of her aged parents, she provides education for her daughter in an English school, and she buys her daughter gold jewellery [2]. Her utmost fear was not to be able to give an education to her child and with tears in her eyes, she now proudly says that her child is doing well in her studies and other extracurricular activities. 

Though she was initially discriminated and had even contemplated on suicide, she challenged the society that even a destitute woman can face the world without shame.  Today, she is looked up as a teacher in her village and respected, and she is an example and a source of hope for young divorcees.

She expresses her thanks to ECLOF that came as a silver lining to lift her head high in society. Today, she is the leader of a group and was able to assist the ECLOF India Field Officer, Mrs. Rajeswari to form 6 more groups in her own village, where ECLOF India has to date lent above Rs.75,00,000/- (US $ 142,517) to support families in their fight against poverty.


[1] Piece jobs consist in getting bulk orders from garment shops for stitching and she charges for each piece she works on.  

[2] In India, particularly in rural places, women are respected for the gold jewellery they wear. They are the sign of their financial and social status.