'Earlier, I used to think that only highly educated people could work in a bank but now I have become well-equipped to do the same. Now, the responsibility of opening women members’ accounts; depositing and withdrawing cash rests with me,' said a 34-year-old gleeful self-employed Lakshmi, who runs a Customer Service Point in Mongolpuri.
Maya, 39, not only runs a boutique but also teaches stitching and embroidery to young girls from poor families.
Withcramped lanes and open drains, Mongolpuri is a slum located in North-West Delhi. It primarily houses a migrant population from Rajasthan and Bihar, which voluntary organisation Plan India is targeting through its initiative, 'Banking on Change'.
The endeavour is toempower and mobilise women, both economically and socially,by making available to them basic financial services and linking them to formal financial institutions likebanks and insurance companies.
Two centers for stitching and embroidery have been commissioned under the project. 'I have gained confidence since I have comehere. I am learning a lot which I hope will make me independent in the future,' said Poonam, a 32-year-old migrant from Bihar and mother of two children. 'We wore the clothes that westitched and walked the ramp in a fashion show organised under the project. It was an experience of a lifetime,' exclaimed Rita, asprightly 21-year-old.
The women under the project have also been mobilised into a federation called Sakhi Sangam Society for Social Change. The federation alsoworks as a pressure group againstwater shortage, electricity cuts andother civic problems.
'In the first phase of the project, we are working with almost 10,000 women in three key areas: community institution building by mobilising women into Self-Help Groups; financial services through micro-finance and financial inclusion by linking them with nationalised banks; for livelihood promotion, we guide and support women in setting up their own micro-enterprises like boutiques, beauty parlours, tiffin service, etc.,' said Sabbar Tousif, Project Manager, Banking on Change, Plan India.
The projectis a manifestation of the Self-Help Group model of micro-finance working for the first time in an urban setting but it differs slightly from the latter. It primarily mobilises women into small clusters comprising five-six members and then the sub-group is merged into a Self-Help Group consisting of 10-20 women.
'This sub-group model works more effectively in an urban setting because the few women in the sub-groups are more familiar with one another, therefore, ensuring attendance and also giving the women a comfort level to open up,' said Mr. Tousif.
'In the second phase of the project, our focus shall be on the employment of young women,' he added. 'We found that domestic violence remained a hurdle in our way, therefore, sensitising the male members of the community shall also be an area of concern.'