Friday, March 18, 2016

Banking the women

                                                         Lakshmi Singh

With access to financial services like bank accounts, loans, etc, women’s bargaining power in society increases 
Our country is positioned at the 29th rank among 146 countries across the globe on the basis of Gender Inequality Index.  It is ironical that a country, which has recently acclaimed the status of the first Asian country to accomplish its Mars mission in the maiden attempt,  There has been amelioration in the position of women, but their true empowerment is still awaited. While the world has achieved progress towards gender equality  and women’s empowerment under the Millennium Development Goals, women and girls continue to suffer discrimination and violence in every part of the world. Women are considered a taboo and still are not allowed in a few temples with nationwide debates discussing this. Experts say that women can achieve gender parity only by 2135. 
We all know that women constitute half the population and so their equal participation in society is imperative for sustainable development. As long as a financial security is not achieved, their emancipation becomes impossible. Financial inclusion plays a crucial role in helping provide numerous benefits through the strengthening of the banking system. In countries like Mexico, Government has made schemes for women which are directly connected to their bank accounts.
There is no denying that the banking sector plays a critical role in bringing financially excluded people into the formal financial sector. Many government initiatives towards financial inclusion are implemented through banks.
In one of the Financial and Digital Inclusion Project report India ranked ninth among 21 countries in financial and digital inclusion efforts. This was based on four dimensions of financial inclusion: country commitment, mobile capacity, regulatory environment, and adoption of traditional and digital financial services.
The Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY), the biggest financial inclusion initiative in the world, is a case in point. PMJDY is enabling citizens at the grassroots to perform financial transactions and keep their hard-earned money safe. A year after the scheme was implemented, its success has highlighted the enormous role that financial inclusion programmes can play in the growth of the economy. Today, atleast 17.5 crore bank accounts have been opened in which women have deposited more than Rs 22,000 crore in them. Moreover zero-balance accounts under PMJDY have declined from 76 per cent to 45.74 per cent since its inception.

 Many of the private sector banks have come forward in the rural markets through microfinance institutions.
Some of the State governments like Rajasthan have taken the lead. In Rajasthan, financial inclusion forms a critical component in the form of  Bhamashah Yojana that connects itself  with women’s empowerment. The scheme was launched in 2008 based on the premise that conditional and direct transfer has the highest impact of government spending on poverty reduction. Monetary benefits to which families were entitled under a number of welfare schemes were transferred to the bank accounts of the women in the family.
It was the first direct benefit transfer scheme in the country. At that time, 50 lakh families were enrolled and 29.07 lakh bank accounts were opened under which Rs 161.49 crore had been transferred in 10.76 lakh accounts.
In 2014, the Bhamashah initiative was refurbished with a broader coverage of gender empowerment, financial inclusion and family-based benefits. It now provides end-to-end delivery system for individuals and various family-based benefits of the government’s social welfare scheme like the PDS, pension funds, health insurance, MNREGA and scholarships through a centralised e-government platform by leveraging the enhanced electronic infrastructure of the state.
These transfers are made to the bank account of the woman of the house through the Bhamashah smart card, which also provides biometric identification of family members. The card is also a co-branded debit card with the participation of several banks.
Many of the NGOs have taken active step in this direction. The Mahila banks in a state like Jharkhand where women are not considered other than child rearing is an innovative solution in a dominant patriarchal society.

Alternative for India Development (AID), an Indian NGO that works to better the lives of tribal communities. AID established Mahila Bank in 2007. Mahila Bank is a unique twist on the mobile banking trend that had been sweeping the development sector. Instead of simply providing accounts to women across these communities, AID employs women from the community to manage local ‘branches’ in easy to access locations. When applying for a bank account, these branches use biometric technology to ensure the bank accounts are secure and may only be accessed by the owner.  Additionally, AID employs a cadre of local women who provide training, and lead community meetings in the scattered villages across Jharkhand on the various schemes available and why banking is important.
The merits of financial inclusion are deeply rooted in citizen empowerment.  Financial inclusion can be a powerful agent for strong and inclusive growth of women and their empowerment

No comments:

Post a Comment