Mustichal: A Lamplight for Deprived Rural Women
Almost over 90 villages in Naogaon, where countless families have been facing difficulties in making their ends meet after covid, a food bank initiative run by women, has become a revolutionary and magnificent step. Locally known as “Mustichal,” this food bank deals with the exchange of rice instead of money to support underprivileged women and their families in this rural area. Since it began service in 2015, this bank has provided loans and other financial assistance to over 5000 women all over Naogaon.
The process through which Mustichal works is quite simple and accessible to the less educated population of the villages. According to a Daily Star article, a group of 20-30 women come together and set aside a fistful of rice throughout the week whenever they cook a meal. The rice is stored in pots before being gathered in a large drum. Then at the end of the week, they sell the rice and utilize the proceeds to fund their chosen income-generating activities.
In these rural regions, women used to take loans and monetary helps from the local Mahajans, village arbitrators, and local clubs at a much higher rate. For them, Mustichal has become a saviour and compass to find their independent stance. Many of these women, who previously led a life of poverty and struggles, have become successful small business owners, not only finding their own income but also running charities and contributing to the community.
Maniza (30), of Kulmodanga village in Sapahar Upazila, purchased six decimals of land with money raised from a Musti Chal group of 30 people. 14 landless families, including Maniza, received financial assistance from local Musti Chal–collecting groups to purchase at least five bighas of land in the Upazila. According to Shamsul Haque, senior program officer of the Borendro Development Organization (BDO), a local NGO that monitors the organizations, one of the groups purchased a shop worth Tk 5 lakh at the Sapahar new market.
The best and most significant outcome of this organization is not only the newfound economic stability for underprivileged women but also the confidence boost among these shy housewives. Even five women who found their income source from Mustichal have been actively participating in local elections and setting examples for other deprived women.
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