Usha Multipurpose Co-operative Society (UMCS), a co-operative which was started by the sex workers at Sonagachhi almost two decades ago, has become a financial institute that has been successfully providing loans to the sex workers for various purposes.
The society, which was started with around 13 sex workers way back in 1995, initially had gone through rough phases but over the years it has become a life line for the sex workers at the Sonagachi as they are getting loans for the education of their children, for setting up houses, loans for treatment and the marriages of their daughter or son.
The society was formed for the sex workers so that they can save money. UMCS was formed under the West Bengal Co-operative Society Act 1983. The co-operative was started by the sex workers under the guidance of Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, an NGO working for the well being of the sex workers. At the time when the forum was set up, the sex workers did not get the opportunity of bank loan and other facilities. They started depositing their savings in the co-operative and eventually it turned to a big institute.
Shantanu Chatterjee, finance manager of the UMCS, said the members were no getting 43 per cent loan for their children education, 20 per cent for building houses, and 10 per cent for marriage of their daughters or sons. Loan is also provided for their treatment.
“The UMCS has now a turnover of Rs 27 crore. To our knowledge this was the first and only such co-operative comprised by the sex workers in South East Asia. This has immensely benefitted the people especially in the time of crisis,” Chatterjee said.