For the 12 days leading up to Thanksgiving in the U.S., we’re featuring 12 stories from six different countries we work in, as a way of saying, “Thank You” to our supporters, who make our work possible. We hope that you enjoy seeing the difference that you’re making in the lives of poor people around the world, every day.
Santosh Daniel, of Mumbai, India joined Grameen Foundation February 2010 as a Project Manager leading oure microsavings initiative. Prior to joining Grameen, Santosh had sixteen years of experience with ICICI bank, Kotak Mahindra Bank and ACCION, specializing in lending to urban poor.
I wanted to work for Grameen Foundation to help lend credibility to this microfinance model being used successfully to reach the poor – to learn and overcome the immense challenges. It’s creative work, and it’s a very uplifting feeling to witness the impact of our actions reflected through the smiles the clients we serve. I enjoy being a part of a very active and vibrant organization in which is defining and influencing the international development landscape in India.
Grameen Foundation supports Cashpor, a microsavings program in partnership with ICICI Bank, to use mobile phones to enable poor, isolated customers to withdraw and deposit their money without having to travel to a bank. We operate in seven districts in Utter Pradesh, with about 80,000 clients. Until now, these women didn’t have access to a bank account, because they live in villages where there are no bank branches. Furthermore, they don’t make enough money to open conventional accounts, which require minimum balances and deposit/withdrawal amounts.
In the past, if these women had some extra money, they would keep it around the house or bury it. Otherwise, it would be spent on non-essential and impulse purchases, or taken by their children, or even eaten by rats. They didn’t have any options for an organized way of saving money. This account allows them to make very small deposits – even deposits of 20 rupees (about $0.40) are allowed – from their mobile phones, which are available for less than $10 in India. Most of the women are illiterate, so they are assisted by the center manager, who also collects and distributes the money at the end of the weekly meeting.
Work requires me to be in the field much of the time, visiting savings groups meetings about six times a month. The most challenging part of the job is patiently working with different stakeholders with divergent interests towards a common goal. Not all the factors influencing the project are controllable, but how close we can come to understanding and responding to the uncontrollable effectively defines our success.
With our technology and information-collecting expertise, we’re helping take this mobile-enabled savings to the rural villages where these women can enroll themselves through the mobile phone and start saving. Many of them are illiterate, so we also teach them financial literacy to help them understand the text messages. We are also getting them in the habit of saving money, which allows them to make a plan. Our initiative has brought them closer to their dreams of being able to save, hope, live and love.
Help even more poor women reach their dreams through access to savings accounts and other services by supporting Grameen Foundation today.
Our 12 days of Thanksgiving series stories were collected and edited with the help of Bankers without Borders® volunteer Nicole Neroulias Gupte.