Diakonia - People change the world

Empowered to start her own business

When Thevamalar Kumaraguru’s husband abandoned the family she found herself forced to beg for food and money from relatives. With a deformity in her ankle Thevamalar felt it would be hard to support her four children, since she was unable to do agricultural work or other traditional activities in the area. But with support from Diakonia she has now set up a stable business, selling dry and smoked fish.

“I can’t walk like other normal people but I can earn more money than normal women do”, Thevamalar says, contentedly.

ThevamalarKumaraguru’s problems began when her husband left home and did not come back. Severely depressed, he is wandering around in the neighbouring villages.

ThevamalarKumaraguru felt miserable since she saw her deformity as a hindrance to being able to earn enough money for the family. But slowly and surely she started to get along by starting chicken farming and making and selling dry and smoked fish.

No one would lend her money

Daily life has been difficult since it has been hard to earn enough for the household’s daily expenses. Her three eldest children are studying, so she needs money for educational expenses. Sometimes she didn’t even have enough for three meals per day.

“When I wanted to borrow money from local money lenders, they didn’t lend me even a small amount since they thought I wouldn’t be able to pay them back”.

Learned how to think more professionally 

The change came when she started to attend meetings arranged by Diakonia’s partner. There she received training in: business development, financial management for small businesses, women’s entrepreneurship and disaster reduction. She learnt how to think beyond what she was already doing, how to allocate money for capital and savings, and then utilise some money for improving the business, and how to calculate the profit. With the confidence from her new skills, she decided to improve the dried and smoked fish making business.

Now she is planning to put up a proper grill with a shed, which will allow her to produce smoked fish during the rainy season and earn money throughout the year. This will help her to fulfil her dream of her children getting education.

Worried about the children's education

Regardless of the difficulties, she faces she has decided not to involve the children in any income activities as she wants them to study well.

“I don’t worry about my leg and my abnormal walking but I am worried about my children’s education. They need to study and find good government jobs, maybe teaching”, she says.

Story told to Murugaverl Murugesu, programme officer in Diakonia Sri Lanka.