It All Starts with Her

More women in India are learning to use their phones to save and manage their money.

In just two weeks, we will celebrate the strength, kindness and love of mothers all around the world. Our mothers are usually our first champions and our fiercest protectors. One of the biggest challenges facing mothers living in poverty is how to stretch their meagre resources far enough to feed, educate and clothe their children.  

Mothers like Wajira. The mother of four lives with her family on the outskirts of Allahabad in northern India. Her husband initially supported the family by fixing bicycles but steadily lost clients as fewer people were using bikes. That’s when she got a loan from Margdarshak, a microfinance institution that works with Grameen Foundation. They used the money to a buy a sewing machine and started a tailoring business. Then she got a second loan to buy a cow—they keep a third of the milk for the family and sell the rest. Wajira and her husband are diligently saving their money at a local bank, determined that their four children—unlike them—will be educated.

So what does this Mother’s Day look like for women like Wajira?

Our team at Grameen Foundation India recently interviewed female clients of Margdarshak and Sonata, another Grameen Foundation microfinance partner. We are helping both institutions improve financial services for their clients, largely through digital technology, and wanted to know how life is changing for the women.

Two-thirds of the women are illiterate or had less than a primary school education and just over 40 percent had participated in some economic activity in the last year, mostly selling and trading goods. Culturally, managing household income is a man’s job, so we were pleased that 60 percent of them were able to make financial decisions jointly with their husbands—a great boost for women’s empowerment. 

Almost 90 percent of them had bank accounts, and 58 percent had used their accounts in the prior 90 days. More than 90 percent either owned a mobile phone or had access to one. Almost a fifth of the bank accounts were linked to mobile phones. 

When Grameen Foundation first began helping women in northern India use mobile technology to access needed financial services six years ago, many considered phones to be taboo for women and few women had regular access to one. So these numbers represent positive change. 

We are determined to keep the momentum going through our work with Margdarshak and Sonata to make it easier for Wajira and other women to manage their money wisely so that they can meet their family’s needs.