Our Biswas

Empower women through Nano Finanancing

aka Our Biswas   |   EAST LANSING, MI   |  www.ourbiswasusa.org

Mission

Through interest-free Nano Finance, Our Biswas seeks to enable marginalized women living in remote villages and urban slums to tackle the many challenges of extreme poverty and to tap into their confidence and ability to empower themselves, their families and their community.

Ruling year info

2009

Principal Officer

Mrs Joyasree Mahanti

Main address

1210 WHITTIER DR

EAST LANSING, MI 48823 USA

Show more contact info

EIN

87-0811973

NTEE code info

International Development, Relief Services (Q30)

International Human Rights (Q70)

International Environment, Population & Sustainability (Q38)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

The challenges of marginalized women in the urban settlements and remote rural villages of Odisha, India and across Uganda, Africa, who live in the dire conditions of extreme poverty, are many. Where we work, housing in unstable and inadequate, individuals and families live with food insecurity and lack of accessibility to clean water and good hygiene, families struggle to feed, clothe and educate their children, and there is an overwhelming lack of access to healthcare, education and information. The only alternatives for many of marginalized women to start or to grow a business is to reach out for financial support to money lenders or microfinance. As these women are among the poorest of the poor, the interest requirements of these options not only fail in their intent, but often result in an endless cycle of debt. While our focus is on gender equity (SDG5) and decent work and economic growth (SDG 8), these sustainable development goals are seen to impact the entire 2030 UN Agenda.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Training and Support through Nano Finance

Provide interest free small loans to women for their livelihood, children's education, basic healthcare, and emergency needs. Support the women through training in different businesses such as decorative items, incense sticks, brown bag making.

Population(s) Served
Women and girls
Economically disadvantaged people

Established in two villages in eastern Odisha to provide training and marketing support to you girls and women. Many women come to the center to use the sewing machines free of cost.

Population(s) Served
Families

A sanitary napkin unit was established in a village of Jagatsingpur in 2015 to provide disposable sanitary napkins to the girls and women at an affordable cost. The women sell the napkins in nearby villages as their livelihood.

Population(s) Served
Women and girls
Seniors

The Chhattisgarh project was started in 2020 and distributed funds to 100 women for painting and fixing their homes, chicken farming, tea shops and many other daily income/livelihood needs.

Population(s) Served
People of South Asian descent
Caregivers
Families
Adults

Our Biswas is partnering with Community Development Finance to provide funds for zero interest installment loans. This program also offers financial coaching, policy development, and other lending programs to avoid predatory pay-day lending.

Population(s) Served
Economically disadvantaged people
Economically disadvantaged people
Adults

Where we work

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

Our Biswas seeks to enable marginalized women living in remote villages and urban slums to tackle the many challenges of extreme poverty and, to tap into their confidence and ability to empower themselves, their families and their community. Our core values are trust, respect, integrity and equality.

Since 2007, Our Biswas provides the spark of economic empowerment through a program of trust and support for women and girls who live in the dire conditions of poverty around the world. Today, the innovative and proven concept of nano finance, developed by Joyasree (Ranu) Mahanti, founder of Our Biswas, has touched the lives of more than 13,000 women who have lifted themselves up to be contributing members of their families, and to serve as leaders in their community.

Through interest free loans and the nano finance program of skill development and training, participating women in Odisha, India, across Uganda, and soon to be in Nepal, have the resources to address emergency needs, develop or expand their livelihood, pay school fees for their children and are able to improve heath care for themselves and their families.
In India, the women live in the slum and urban areas of Sambalpur and Cuttack districts, the villages of Baragarh, Sonepur, Kalahandi, Bolagir, Anugul, and Jagatsingpur districts. Currently, the coordinators of Aamara Biswas, the local partner organization, are working in 80 villages of the state of Odisha, India.

In 2016, Uganda became the first program outside of Odisha, India to integrate nano finance within the context of gender equity, women's empowerment, and transformational community change. The Uganda initiative began in April 2016 and is today working in partnership with local NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and CBOs (community based organizations) with nearly 600 women, who live in the districts of Kampala and Nakaseke in the central region and in Kasese and Karabole in the Western Region. The program is also a registered CBO located in Kampala, founded by marginalized women to empower those like themselves to take purposeful action and realize their goals, free from the injustice that is part of their daily life.

Our Biswas works with a vision to make it possible for millions of women around the world, who are born into extreme poverty to have the tools to be impactful agents of change, empowerment and leadership in their community.

The strategies we use to enable marginalized women to access agency, meaning and connection in their lives, as agents of change within their family and in their community, recognize the critical importance of advancing gender parity to spur inclusive economic growth and social justice.

At the heart of our strategy is economic empowerment through access to interest-free nano finance, a concept developed by Our Biswas founder Ranu Mahanti, recognizing that the complexity and demands of micro finance did not serve marginalized women, and that an innovative program was needed that was to be operated by women for women in trust, without preconditions, with a manageable system that encourages success and sustains itself by re-circulating the returned loans.
Our theory of change also includes facilitating partnerships with local individuals, organizations and companies for skill development, and livelihood training, as well as the opportunity for financial inclusion, and the resources and distribution channels needed for the women to become longterm players in high growth value chains.

Additionally, we expose the women, most of whom are not educated to basic literacy and numeracy learning to enable them to develop decision making and leadership potential and increase the sustainability of their livelihoods.

Finally, we encourage the women to consider asset-based community development when starting or developing their livelihoods so to tackle the challenges in the areas of shelter, food and nutrition, health care, education, environment and economy that would better their community.

Our Biswas grew from the passion and dream of its founder, Ranu Mahanti to help alleviate suffering especially, initially among the women of her home state of Odisha, India. Knowing first hand of the devastating condition of the poorest of the poor women who lives have been in this circumstance for centuries without change, and having worked with different organizations in India, she was inspired to find a better way to reach these marginalized people, and thus developed the Nano Finance system. Nano Finance conceptually 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 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"—the word therefore seemed appropriate for the name of the organization.

In addition to the simple, yet highly effective Nano Finance system, which in itself, with its clear and easy to manage process, economically empowers the women we work with, the structure in both India and Uganda is based locally, with program coordinators implementing the program and reporting to Country Coordinators who then report to the organization’s board of directors.

Knowing the needs of women individually, as well as the community needs, the staff and structure of Our Biswas also works (in Uganda with MOUs) to engage local partner organizations to help with technical training, literacy learning, leadership expertise, and local advocacy. In India, this has enabled a water filter project, a sanitary napkin unit, and the building of a Center or physical space to hold meetings and trainings. In Uganda, to date, this made possible the establishment of social enterprise groups of women working in passion fruit farming and school book-making, a ten-fold growth of the number of women served in three years, an asset based community development workshop with the Peace Corps to encourage community action and a broader understanding of the marketplace, and locally developed leadership structures to implement the program at a larger scale in any one community.

The strategies and capabilities of Our Biswas have served our mission to enable marginalized women living in remote villages and urban slums to tackle the many challenges of extreme poverty. Since 2007, we have economically empowered more than 13,000 women and have grown beyond Odisha, India to Uganda, Africa and soon also to engage communities in Nepal. We have grown strategically and organically from grassroots implementation of interest-free Nano Finance to using this innovative concept at a tool for transformational community change.

Moving forward, we recognize the need to continue to expand both in the communities we serve as well as geographically for the marginalized women around the world. We take our clues for strategic growth from the women we work with who harness their collective power to generate change. We have proven ourselves in the communities in which we work in to be a model and a movement, especially among women and girls, who now see realized potential and a promising future for themselves, their families and their community. We seek to continuously improve and thus are listening to the women of our communities who not only want to diversify and expand their livelihoods, but too who want to positively impact their communities with improved health and safety, as well as greater environmental conservation. Skill development and literacy/numeracy training for these otherwise formally uneducated women will support their moxie to rise up and be the change they hope to see in their community.

Specifically, as recognized by the World Bank, UN organizations, particularly UN Women and UNDP that women and children are often disproportionally affected by lack of energy access. We have heard about the health dangers from smoke and burns with regard to charcoal stoves from our partners based in urban settlements, and we have heard from our partners who a based in remote villages about the impact of precipitation, water availability, extreme weather patterns, floods as well as droughts, and the increase in pest and disease as a result of climate change. We recognize the role of women as clean energy entrepreneurs can have in enhancing sustainable economic development in India and Uganda and seek to potentially enable this opportunity for the women in our program to scale-up supply chains to reach last mile markets and contribute to the global concern of climate change. The goal in this respect is to establish social enterprises focused on selling energy products and services is to not only to provide new economic opportunities for the women in our programs, but to be part of larger network committed to climate resiliency.

Financials

Our Biswas
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Our Biswas

Board of directors
as of 7/15/2021
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Mrs Joyasree Mahanti

Urmila Pateriya

Margo Smith

Nupur Sethi

Akshaya Ray

Satya Subedi

Anshu Varma

Molly Petitjean

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? No
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Not applicable
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 07/15/2021

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
Asian American/Pacific Islanders/Asian
Gender identity
Female, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

 

Sexual orientation

Disability

No data

Equity strategies

Last updated: 07/15/2021

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

Policies and processes
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We have community representation at the board level, either on the board itself or through a community advisory board.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.