Entrepreneur Chetna Gala Sinha, suggests simple ways we can financially empower women from lower economic strata
Proper execution of Jandhan Yojna
Among the several initiatives that the Prime Minister introduced after taking office is the Jandhan Yojna, which aims at ensuring that every household has a savings a/c. A very important aspect of the yojna is the overdraft facility for account holders, starting at Rs.2000 going up to Rs.5000. The challenge won't lie in opening their accounts, but in ensuring that they are regularly operated. For true success, especially with women, door-step banking will play a vital role because going to the bank means spending time and money and the other equally crucial requirement will be that the spirit of the policy is properly communicated to them.
It's important that women get to take benefit of this initiative and get some control over money because we find that in low-income groups, women (rather than men) plan finances from a long-term perspective; their purchases are generally directed towards family welfare, especially health and education, or improving the family's standard of living.
Incentives for Ownership of Land
Complete or co-ownership of land by women would not only give them security, but also the opportunity to use it as collateral whilst taking loans. To make it happen you have to make the property registration process easier (if it's complicated women won't go ahead) and encourage men–offer them better interest rates for loans taken against land owned by women.
Low-premium Financial Products
It's not that the poor don't do banking because they don't have money, but because their cash flows and needs are different; so banks need to be innovative in their product design as well as delivery model (with help of technology) to cater to them and capture this market. To really attract them into the banking system, it's not enough to just make them open savings accounts. Women in low-income groups want long-term saving plans and usually want to invest their money in their kids’ education. While several products are targeted at women in high-income groups, the need of the hour is products like insurance policies, educational loans and pension schemes for women in low-income groups. To make it work, agents should not only be judged on the basis of number of accounts they open, but also the numbers that go dormant because the latter is often an indication of lack of proper service. Our pension product is doing well, so we can say with confidence that women do really want it.
Decreasing the age of Account Holders
A lot of adolescent girls in low-income groups are realising the need to support themselves, to continue their education. The age of opening an account has now been brought down by RBI from 18 to 15. These special students accounts are result of kids living away from home to pursue education. We have already started this and if other banks do so too (for students in low-income groups), it will ensure that the money saved, will definitely go into the kids' education. It will also have a positive ripple effect in terms of delay in marriage, motherhood etc.