'You should go to school so that when you grow up you can be self-reliant. Even if others do not support you, you cannot give up. You will have to struggle a lot – you may have to balance your home, your work and your school. This may seem unfair. But sometimes, this is the only way. Dreams are left unfulfilled if you are dependent. Independence comes from being educated.’
Shabnam Aara is a small loans manager in Cashpor a micro-finance organization in Benares, Uttar Pradesh. When Shabnam was young, she dropped out of school when her father lost his job, but she managed to go back to school and complete her education by working part-time. Shabnam learned how to make carpets at home, and managed to enroll herself back in school. Shabnam then heard about the position as a field worker with Cashpor, the organization was looking for women fieldworkers as their clients are also women. Shabnam was able to convince many women to take loans and change their lives. During this time, Shabnam was promoted three times – and each time Shabnam wanted more, so she studied at night for her B.A. by correspondence – and today, Shabnam has been promoted to be the branch manager of Cashpor, where she oversees an office of seven men. Shabnam lives in a small room with a small suitcase behind her office, saving to build a house for her family. Shabnam grew up in Arhora Village, Sonbhadra district, Uttar Pradesh and she is 26 years old.