Women leadership in India via microfinance

Guest post by Cynthia Sánchez (UW English major, graduating in 2011)

I used to believe microfinance pertained only to those in the banking industry. However, I’ve discovered this is not the case. Microfinance can be utilized by many banks, but also individuals seeking to help others. I learned microfinance does more than lend money. It helps people save, build their resources and reduce their vulnerability.

Microfinance repayment gathering in India
Microfinance repayment gathering in India

Meeting with Grameen Bank in Bangalore, India allowed me to witness the difference the bank makes by giving 97% of their loans to women while they also strive to educate the next generation. Our meeting with Grameen Bank began by attending a repayment meeting. We arrived at the gathering location—encountering a few goats along the way—and entered an open space. A group of women sat leg-crossed chanting the sixteen decisions, a set of values, followed by the recitation of a vow. This was the way they commenced meetings. They welcomed us with smiles and requests to sit next to them, tapping the floor beside them to signal open spots. The women wore saris and a few cradled their children. We took our seats barefoot and watched each member sign in. Their glass and golden bangles slid up and down, synchronized to the movement of their arms.

The session was quick. The women were prepared with the money stacked in their hands, like a deck of cards. They all sat attentive waiting to hear their name to pass the payment to the lender. The money circulated, hand in hand, until it reached him. He counted the amount and recorded the amount in the borrower record sheet which contained the borrower’s picture, her name, the names of her children and spouse and dates of all the past payments.

We learned from the women that with the money they borrowed they had paid for their children’s education, started businesses, resolved personal issues and emergencies and also had the opportunity to expand their knowledge of business. Obtaining a loan from Grameen Bank had empowered them to decide what was best for their families and their future. Women who were once considered “uncredit-worthy” are now beginning to move away from poverty in a country where 41% of its population is still “unbanked”—demonstrating the difference a small loan can make.

Cynthia is a University of Washington student participant in the Foster School of Business study tour during fall quarter 2010. The trip, focused on Women Leadership in India, was organized by Foster faculty member Cate Goethals.

One thought on “Women leadership in India via microfinance”

  1. Thank you Cynthia for appreciating the work currently undergoing in the supervision of Micro Finance Organizations in India.

    As we know, in most developing countries, the mass market is the poor market and they have different needs and behaviors, that a one-size-fits-all solution cannot address. They only can be served through subsidized offers, through creative ways of developing, micro lending or by nonprofit NGOs. They aren’t near anywhere in the focus of banks as opening an account in a bank costs almost 20$ to 25$ here in India while this 20$ or 25$ can change the world for a poor. Asking for a loan to the banks also need to have a healthy transaction or equivalent amount of mortgage which is definitely inaccessible for a poor. Hence they head towards moron loan sharks only to add more to their poverty and that’s where come to existence the Micro-lending.

    We, Micro-finance and Micro Lending organizations have taken it up to ourselves to reach out to people where banks and govt. can’t reach and assist them financially to fulfill their basic requirements; from education to sanitation, small business and clean drinking water etc. You can simply watch some other success stories where we have transformed the living here: http://www.milaap.org/blog/page/4.html.

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