There’s a tendency to become very involved when there’s a lot of work to do in a specific area. As a result, everything around somewhat loses significance. This was especially highlighted when my fellow ambassador, Nirav, and I were given the chance to see the other side of Swadhaar. Swadhaar FinAccess provides training and assistance to women in slum areas who want to learn more about budgeting, opening bank accounts, accounting for expenses and learning about loans. Having worked in the microfinance side of the organization, I forgot how important education is – oftentimes more so than the actual process of giving out loans, because they become useless when given to someone who does not know the correct way of using them.
With that in mind, we set out last Thursday to see the 3rd day of a 5 day training session in the Bandra-Kurla complex in Mumbai. Rekha, the lead there, sat down with two others and explained to us how they solicit women (because this training is exclusively for women), what the training entails, and what they hope to achieve from the training.
FinAccess (provides training) and FinServe (microfinance) work in the same area and each is assigned a particular area to serve. The women who provide the training solicit women in different slum areas each week by going from door to door and/or talking to different women’s organizations. The trainees make sure they have a place secured to hold the training session before they decide to do a class in the area. Once they have at least 15 people interested, they organize an informational session where they go over their curriculum, tell them the fees for the class (Rs.30 for the entire week), and what they will be getting and accomplishing as a result of it. I asked about why Swadhaar chooses to charge fees for the classes and the reason given was that the women have a propensity to stop coming after a class or two and not take it seriously enough – when there’s a fees involved (even a nominal one) it gives the training more legitimacy and importance, making the women more prone to attend all the five days of classes. Once they have more than 15 people sign up, they decide to hold a session.
The training is split into five days:
Day 1: What is income and how do you calculate it?
- Learn about expenses through a homework activity for which select women are given gifts for finishing and doing it well
Day 2: Learn about budgeting
- Making a list and many examples are given relevant to women’s lives
Day 3: Why should one save? The difference between government and non-government accounts
Day 4: How to use the money one saves
Day 5: Information session on loans and the process of acquiring them
Their goal is not to have the women take out a loan. In fact, their goal is to teach women how to save and learn about the different options available to them that doesn’t take advantage of their lack of knowledge surrounding financial options available to them. Their ultimate goal is that they can make informed decisions and in the process understand the importance of saving rather than living day to day. Ideally each woman would never find themselves in a situation where they have to take out a loan, and that’s what they keep in mind with each training session they undertake.
My next post is about my personal experience witnessing a training session in the Bandra-Kurla complex.