To me ‘Empowerment’ is the power to chase and make the ‘Dream come true’… empowerment is a state of ‘Mind without fear’ to express and aspire for a better life for myself and for the people around me. Being a woman, that too a woman from the so called ‘Hard to reach’ areas (as it’s termed in development discourse), I know it’s not an easy proposition to feel empowered. Lack of access to and control over productive resources has always remained the factor to make us feel less empowered. Evidences are there for saying that the ‘Microfinance Movement’ has opened immense opportunities for women to make their lives better, without compromising their own dreams.
‘Remaining mute in any conversation for a peaceful life’ is the norm to be considered as sensible woman in our culture, even today! Fortunately, I’m blessed with a few weapons that make me slightly more powerful than women from the generation of my mother and grandmother. I have the power of ‘Education’ that provides the courage to think independently and somehow take decisions to achieve my goal. Women of my age are definitely more powerful and equipped better to make my own life better. My improved access to finance for doing something on my own is the window that allows me to initiate my journey towards empowerment. Microfinance makes me powerful in that.
Even today, we are grown up with the burden of inferiority complex for being the ‘burden on parents’ and ‘meant for someone else, the in- laws family’. While a male child in the same family can access the family resources for income generation, the stake of a girl in most of the cases are considered as a few ornaments, good marriage and even dowry to make a girl valuable and secure in life. Presumable all these steps and strategies are of no use. Precisely, women do not have any access to Finance to do something for improving their financial position, neither at parent’s place nor at husband’s place. Microfinance opens up that possibility.
Microfinance is a category of financial services targeting individuals and small businesses who lack access to conventional banking and related services. In India, service providers in microfinance ecosystem includes the formal (banks, NBFCs), semi-formal institutions, NGOs, local savings groups and NIDHI Companies. Small business holders, budding or new entrepreneurs (mostly youth and women) and MSMEs are at the side of users of microfinance services in India. Microfinance sector is a critical element in the financial lives of 58 million households. A total of 2310 billion is circulating as working capital amongst these households, fueling the economy of villages and towns across the country.
Data reveals that about 90% of Women entrepreneurs and women- owned SMEs (WSMEs) in the country still rely on informal financing and 66% do not have a bank account. There is a finance gap of 158 billion USD for WSMEs in India. This segment of missing population are microfinance borrowers whose financial requirements have outgrown microfinance, but are deemed too small for banks. Strategic empowerment of the microfinance ecosystem will be readily backed by this growing market and ensure quicker revival of Indian economy with the much desired ‘inclusive growth & development’.
At the same time, Microfinance helps in addressing many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that we are committed to achieve. Improved access to finance is one among the key factors ensuring the attainment of critical goals like Gender equality and equity across all subsets of population
Preeti Roy is the Youth Coordinator and Lead Content Developer at Markzin.
For further communication please write to Preeti at firstname.lastname@example.org