Women Make Better Investors 8 MARCH 2010
When we launched the Moneylife Foundation and the...
Dr Nita Mukherjee describes the work of an NGO promoting financial literacy among Mumbai’s slum women
To meet Preeti Telang, head social initiatives of Swadhaar FinAccess (SFA) at her office, you have to walk almost sideways in a small by-lane of Kherwadi (Mumbai) through the slums that lie between the Bandra Terminus of Western Railway and the Western Express Highway and go up a rickety staircase and jump over several uneven floor levels. But the buzz and the bustle that you notice once you reach there, establishes beyond doubt the commitment of the group working for the cause of financial literacy among the women of Mumbai’s slums.
Says Preeti, “This is our work area and we chose to operate from where our target audience can have easy access to us and feel at home in approaching us.” Swadhaar FinAccess, a non-profit Section-25 company was started by a group of high-profile women with long years of experience in the financial and development sector (including Veena Mankar and Haseena Vahanvaty) in 2005 when micro-finance had become an accepted tool of financial inclusion. The term Swadhaar means self-support and reflects SFA’s objective of “helping its clients improve their financial circumstances—to achieve self-reliance, to increase their income generating potential and to ensure that they are able to meet their daily consumption needs.” Reducing the vulnerability of the urban poor to usurious moneylenders, increasing their income-generating & saving capacity and bringing their knowledge up to a ‘bankable’ stage are the areas that SFA works on. Once the women reach that stage, SFA helps them open ‘no-frills accounts’ with banks like Citibank, State Bank, Syndicate Bank, etc. So far, 643 such accounts have been opened for the ‘graduates’ of SFA’s training programmes.
The tool used by SFA is financial education. Preeti says, “It ensures that women not only gain credit, but also the ability to spend it wisely. Working with the slum communities in Mumbai, we have learnt that indebtedness is not only caused by lack of money but also by lack of knowledge. Women need familiarity with financial concepts, new attitudes about savings, and better skills in money management.”
SFA’s financial education programme also serves the networking purpose—absolutely essential in extension learning. Training programmes help build solidarity, give them an opportunity to interact and, through a process of collective learning, find solutions to their problems. Preeti says that they choose one working woman per family and the target age group is 25-50 years. So far, all the learners are married women with children—this profile helps spread financial literacy to extended families and the community as well.
Preeti’s forte is designing and developing communication strategy. Each learner is given a diary called ‘paise ki baat—paise kaise bachayen, kaise badhayen…’ (‘money matters—how to save money and multiply it…’). The diary has simple entries for home budgeting. SFA’s trained staff evaluate the learners on their home budgeting and account-keeping tasks that are set out in the diary. Until March 2010, around 1,500 women had completed the course offered through some 80 training programmes.
According to an external impact study conducted in 2009, the retention of attendance was as high as 86%. There is no formal examination but a certificate is issued and an identity card is given to enable the women to open a bank account. SFA has its outreach offices at four locations in Mumbai, namely, Kherwadi, Chembur, Malad and Andheri.
After the promoters of Swadhaar received the licence from the Reserve Bank of India to operate as a non-banking finance company providing micro-finance, SFA’s operations are restricted to financial literacy, savings and livelihood development programmes. The micro-credit portfolio has been transferred to a new company called Swadhaar FinServe Private Limited. SFA now depends mainly on donations and volunteers; it has tax-exemption under Section 80-G.
Aptech has appointed former Barclays Bank executive Easwaran Krishnan as the new head for human resources
Learning solutions provider Aptech Ltd has said that it has appointed Easwaran Krishnan as the head for human resources.
As a new member of Aptech's HR team, Mr Krishnan will direct the company's human resources functions to ensure that they “align with the company's goals and objectives,” Aptech said in a release.
Mr Krishnan, with corporate experience of more than 15 years, was working with Barclays Bank PLC in Mauritius, as the head of HR for the retail and commercial bank.