Nita Kejriwal: On average, a federation at the cluster level has 30 village organizations, 450 self-help groups (SHGs) and 5,000 members. It aims to build capacity, empowerment and self-help. We are trying to develop 1,500 model cluster federations to become dump sites for other cluster federations. These already engage in financial intermediation as they obtain community investment funds. Some mature federations have millions of rupees in their corpus fund, which they use to make loans to their members. This work will continue, but liaison with banks and credit support for other financial services will also run in parallel. These federations help plan each member’s livelihoods, support Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs), negotiate with the market, help members access entitlements from different government departments, and have memorandums of understanding with Amazon and other e-commerce retailers. An important task of these federations is to present members’ demands in different forums such as Gram development plans and to influence policy making. These federations have also established women’s justice centers.
On women-led cooperative banks and financial inclusion
Chetna Sinha: The women who came together to form the Mann Deshi Sahakari Bank said that we can’t read or write, but we can count. And I think that was a powerful statement. They meant that local women knew about financial planning and how to support each other. Now the vendors get together and pledge the group’s guarantee for the repayment of the loan. They are even turning to individual entrepreneurship. We envision impacting one million women entrepreneurs, each of them will create 10 jobs. This means one million female entrepreneurs with 10 million jobs. It’s the potential you have at the local level.
Anjini Kochar: In terms of financial inclusion, India was at its lowest since 2012. These numbers have improved significantly. Thus, even in a state like Bihar, the percentage of women who report having access to a savings account is 70-80%. I have to say that the NRLM and self-help groups have played a big role in this. It’s not just Jan Dhan’s accounts. Self-help groups pushed women to open their own accounts. We now need to see how financial access translates into growth. We see enormous heterogeneity around the world in this regard. For example, in Bihar, we were looking at the Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana (IGMSY), the maternity support program, which provides credit payments directly into women’s savings accounts. The Rs 2,000 arriving in the woman’s account were immediately withdrawn by the men of the household. This is an extreme example but it shows you what it takes to make the profits real.
On the influence of women in urban slums on policy-making
Bijal Brahmbhatt: Mahila Housing Trust’s mission was to improve the housing, living and working environment of poor women in the informal sector by directly empowering them and giving them the technical know-how to be able to talk and negotiate with the government and the private sector on an equal footing. base. In Ahmedabad, women needed access to water or sanitation. We have opted for network solutions to reduce inequalities.
A woman represented each household and then each elected community action group, specifically trained to understand governance systems in cities. It started from there and expanded to include access to legal electricity, housing finance and legal land rights.
In urban areas, climate change is something that directly intersects with the type of built environment you create. Our communication has been very cleverly designed to make them understand the complexities of climate change. And the idea was to demystify scientific facts so they could co-create solutions. The second aspect was to engage technologists and scientists with these poor women to spread technologies that would help them adapt or lessen the impact. They presented these ideas to city governments and supported the development of heat action plans or cool roof policies or monsoon action plans at this level. Today, 125,000 families, or an average of five people in each family, have joined this movement against climate change.
Madhu Krishna: Our latest NRLM review shows you can increase your revenue by 19%. There was a 20% decline in the share of informal loans and an increase in household savings. When you talk about resources, if you can show the power that women can display, both the technical skills they bring to the table and the local knowledge and context they bring, that’s super helpful. In Odisha, the management of Faecal Sludge Treatment Plants (FSTPs) has been handed over to SHGs. This type of initiative is now spreading to other states. Programs like the MNREGA create productive assets, not only for cities but also for women. This convergence is actually going to be the next big game changer.
On the inclusion of the ultra poor in collectives
Balamurugan D: Jeevika, funded by the World Bank, is able to access over Rs 21,000 crore of credit from banks, helping women lift themselves out of poverty. Although the ultra-poor are part of a self-help group, they cannot afford even five rupees in savings a week. Bihar’s Satat Jeevikoparjan Yojana (SJY) is a sustainable annual program aimed at selecting and working with ultra-poor families. The best part is that this is done by the SHG itself, the Village Organizations (VOs), who select the poorest of the poor. When making selections through these CBOs, especially the VOs, the error of inclusion and exclusion is very minimal. The most important element here is coaching and home visits. Initially, Rs 10,000 is given as a grant to start a business and we also give Rs 7,000 as support money for the first seven months. We currently have 1,44,000 families under this program, of which more than 50% have moved from one scale to another. They started saving Rs 250 per month.
On the socio-economic impact of the Meghalaya model
Hasina Kharbhih: It is a pattern that has spread very deeply in the seven northeastern states and in the neighboring countries of Bangladesh, Myanmar and Nepal. Lack of jobs, a support system for entrepreneurship and market resilience meant that women in indigenous communities with traditional skills had lost value. Vulnerable, they became migrants and exposed themselves to the risk of human trafficking. Today, we encourage them to revive traditional crafts and skills and help them market their products. The biggest catalyst was the flexibility of working from home. Our business model involves centralized distribution of raw materials for quality control, engaging storytelling of pattern and design in their creations, and product uniqueness that is sustainable in nature. This has reduced migration and human trafficking over the past 14 years. Each woman earns nearly Rs 7,000 to 8,000 per month. It is a gender facilitator because the husband distributes the raw material while the wife weaves.
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On private financing and scaling up women-led cooperative enterprises
Chetna Sinha: Even though women are part of the SHG, when you want to start a business, you need capital. One is the capital or the loan you get from the bank, but women don’t have collateral. That’s where Mann Deshi’s comeback comes in. A lot of wealthy women want to support other women, so there’s a kind of grant equity. The women use apps like Mera Khata and Mera Bill for their financial management and make very simple entries about their business. In our bank, women receive a renewable grant to buy the machines. Private investment can take the form of mortgaged machines. And when private investment comes in, your standardization and financial planning follows, which helps women move from sole proprietorships to LLPs or LLCs.
Madhu Krishna: We help NRLM create a very solid digital architecture. So, while current MIS systems rarely look at SHG credit links, once we have a solid database and credit history of individual women entrepreneurs, we think that will be a very big thing. Then you can bring in multiple federations at the cluster level and provide them with some sort of enterprise support system. But certainly, scale is important.
Giriraj Singh, Minister of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj
My mission is to ensure that no rural woman wishing to connect with the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) is left behind. I will also improve the turnover of 5.9 lakh crore women. If half the country’s population improves
income, women will contribute significantly to the national GDP. Today, 8.35 million women are connected to
NRLM and there are bank bonds of 5.9 lakh crore, while NPAs have been reduced to 2.5%