North East Network has consistently been engaging with women’s groups at the grassroots level in building their capacity on women’s human rights and their entitlements. Financial literacy in simple words means the ability to understand concepts of saving, spending investing and equipping oneself with knowledge and skills to manage money effectively.
In a previous initiative, NEN had conducted a study titled ‘Women’s access to ESCP Rights and Entitlements’ in 3 districts (EKH, WKH and SWKH) and the findings indicate that most rural women lack financial literacy. With women making up to 49.72% of the total population (2011 Census) and about 80% living in rural areas, it is imperative that awareness of financial literacy is raised. To address this need, we organized a Financial Literacy programme in collaboration with the Reserve Bank of India at Korstep, in Ri-Bhoi District.
Keeping in mind that these women are also members of Self Help Groups, the resource person from RBI not only spoke about concepts of savings, expenses and investment but also about the importance of maintaining registers for transparency. Loans for educational and agricultural purposes that they can avail were explained and the session was focused on making them aware about Ponzi schemes, scams, identifying fake currency notes to enable them to take financially safe and informed decisions about their money.
Like in the other districts of our survey, it was observed that women in Korstep were also unaware of what banks offer and their functions. They possess bank accounts only because it was mandated under MGNREGA and for maintaining their SHGs. Even today, all their income savings were in cash at home stored in their trunks and if emergency funds were required for say medical treatments they turned to money lenders. Unable to repay such loans many mortgaged their agricultural produce. A total of 12 women participated and through the programme, it was emphasized that they should raise queries in their banks about their bank accounts, interest rates, schemes and services available.