Sheila McLeod Arnopoulos is the author of a novel and two other non-fiction books, has won the Governor General's Literary Award, and has earned several journalism prizes for exposes about marginalized women and minorities. A former journalism professor, she spent a total of twenty-one months in India meeting grassroots women using microcredit to launch businesses and achieve social change.
Saris on Scooters
Short-listed for the 2010 National Business Book Award
Renowned author and journalist Sheila McLeod Arnopoulos uses her talent for investigative reporting to take us deep into the poorest villages in India. Yet, far from being passive victims of their circumstances, the women who live there have joined forces and are making astute use of microcredit to break the cycle of poverty.
Microcredit was made famous by Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus and consists of very small loans made primarily to women for the production of essential commodities or to start small businesses. Basing the book on a number of trips to India between 2001 and 2008, Arnopoulos shows her sense of solidarity and desire for authenticity by sharing the daily life of these villagers. The first-person account of her extensive travels focuses primarily on these women’s inspiring success stories. After witnessing many such situations first-hand, she believes that these villages have a potential strength equal to that of the modern, high-tech cities in India.
These women are living examples of sustainable solutions to poverty. For decades the world has donated billons to fund megaprojects, while also inadvertently supporting corruption and oppressive regimes. This book will make us question how we help people in other societies.
Inspiring as such stories are, they are abundant in any number of publications and on the internet. What fleshes them out into a lively full-length book are other factors, including striking accounts of Hindu and Muslim women working to avoid conflict in the face of an active attempt to stoke it by polarized communal groups, politicians and the police, and of a stay in a model organic farm in the foothills of the Himalayas to take a two-week course on Gandhi, Cultures of Non-violence and Globalization.
Its a well written, inspiring read, perfect for any sustainable traveler interested in the compelling stories of other peoples lives.
Thankfully, Saris on Scooters is about microcredit sans the big time. Call it the theory of general relativity. The level of analysis should fit the story, plain and simple. An investigation of microcredit needs to be made on a micro-level.
Sheila McLeod Arnopoulos, co-recipient of the 1979 Governor Generals Award for non-fiction, visited India between 2001 and 2008. The result is this well-documented, eminently readable and uplifting book.
Saris on Scooters makes a compelling read for anyone who is interested in understanding the role of Indian rural women in poverty reduction and the role of microcredit in helping them.
The women described within these pages demonstrate an extraordinary courage and determination to not only survive, but to thrive.
Mary Ellen Iskenderian is President and CEO of Women’s World Banking, the global nonprofit devoted to giving more low-income women access to the financial tools and resources they require to achieve security and prosperity.