Without financial literacy, it is impossible to pull oneself out of poverty. One has to be aware of the way money can be saved, can be invested, and can be used for the benefit of the family.
Women in underserved communities of India have traditionally been engaged with managing their household chores, with the upbringing of their children and with any type of work-related to family trade. This includes taking care of domestic livestock, providing support in farm work especially during sowing and harvesting of crops, working as labour in construction work, and many more.
The magnitude of work that is done by women in a typical Indian household especially in the lower-income strata is gargantuan. Over time we have seen an increase in women’s participation in the labour market to support their household. Women need to acquire financial knowledge, confidence, and skills to effectively participate in economic activities and financial decision-making, both within and outside their households.
A research suggests that 62% of Indian women, which is an approximate figure of 411 million, either do not own a bank account or have limited access to banking services. This further becomes problematic if we consider the gender gap in technology. With gender barriers in access to phone and internet, only 2% of women have mobile accounts, making it difficult to bring them under the ambit of digital banking.
In our experience, while engaging with the women in underprivileged communities, we realized that there is a huge gap in their information and awareness on financial management and opportunities. If they are given relevant exposure and training then they can take better decisions to improve the quality of their family.
Planning in advance for future expenses is imperative. Unforeseen expenses on illness and other emergencies, planning for the education of children, building a house, saving for old age care and expenses are important. Unfortunately, this type of advanced financial planning is unheard of amongst them and hence many families fall into debt traps. Women if trained in financial literacy are able to guide their family better in budget management and for future financial planning.
The financial literacy training provided by financial experts under the Swabhiman programme of Smile Foundation aims to support women and train them simplistically such that they are able to:
—keep an account of their expenses and savings
—understand interest rates and loans and make responsible decisions
—understand investments, costing-pricing, time and quality relation for economic well-being
—avail schemes and opportunities offered by the government, banks and NGOs
—bring about positive changes within their household and small business
—make their monthly expenditure and saving plans
—become empowered to choose and access appropriate financial services and products, as well as to develop and manage entrepreneurial activities in a better manner.
This Women’s Day we hope that more women seek financial education and become empowered to conduct day to day activities with greater confidence!
(The writer is Executive Trustee, Smile Foundation. Views expressed are personal)
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