These small-scale entrepreneurs participate in business, leadership and life skills training led by their loan officer, who also serves as each member’s mentor and advocate. This collaborative approach empowers members to learn new skills, pursue dreams and take on leadership roles such as president of their support group or chair of a local women’s council.

A collaborative approach

As their businesses grow and relationships deepen, these women develop the courage to become employers and role models, helping them break free from the limitations of poverty.

"As their businesses grow and relationships deepen, these women develop the courage to become employers and role models, helping them break free from the limitations of poverty."

It’s Monday and A. Sheela Shan-takumari is leading a Baba Trust Group meeting in Chennai, India. Nineteen women have joined together to repay loans, learn accounting skills and socialize. Like many women in the world whose activity is limited by social conventions, Sheela barely left her house two years ago. Today, she is president of her Trust Group and a community leader with a profitable business. Sheela credits her new life to counsel from her loan officer, support from her group and training in business skills.

Building relationships

Weekly meetings are the hallmark of the Trust Group model. As they receive training in business practices, interpersonal relationships and health care issues, members develop close alliances along with new skills. For A. Sheela Shan- takumari, the entire experience has been life-changing.

“My courage has grown and I feel very grateful and proud,” she says. Her sari sales business has tripled since she helped found the Baba Trust Group. She has become well known in her community through her involvement in philanthropic projects, including a children’s art festival that provides a platform for students to express themselves. With a high repayment rate, Trust Groups have proven to be an effective grassroots approach to tackling poverty. While building up local economies, these close-knit groups also foster personal growth and create community leaders like Sheela.