Swabhiman means self-respect in English. For an individual, especially a woman, self-respect is possibly the most important thing. Being financially independent and sustaining oneself plays a key role on the path to gaining self-respect. At Smile, through our Swabhiman programme, we are aiming precisely for this. It is not enough to just spread information about how women can improve their lives, they also need support in planning a sustainable future.
Apart from working towards empowering women and adolescent girls through reproductive health education and services, Swabhiman undertakes projects that aid entrepreneurship among women. Towards this goal, entrepreneurship training is being imparted to enterprising women at the community level. One of the most important goals of the programme is to help women achieve financial literacy.
As women producers take ownership of their businesses and manage their own profits, they improve their social connectivity and build confidence in business negotiations. An improvement in social status is another significant outcome of the business. As a result of generating significant income to meet household needs, these women also start receiving better treatment in their households and the larger community.
Swabhiman beneficiary Ruby is a shining example of this. She is a 25-year-old resident of Surat Nagar, Gurgaon. Born in a remote village in West Bengal, she shifted to Gurgaon after her marriage. She has studied only up to the 8th grade. For almost four years after she got married, Ruby was a full-time homemaker. She took care of all the household chores. Due to uncertainty in her husband’s job, Ruby decided to start her own business and provide financial support to her family. She took her interest in fashion and turned it into a tailoring business. The enterprise began with a small loan of Rs 1,00,000, but now she has a team of 10 employees working for her! Ruby also managed to take her business online due to the growing availability of technology and smart phones. This has enabled her to expand her customer base and business.
Through her business venture, Ruby is contributing significantly to increased production quality, marketing effectiveness, and job creation. She has proactively encouraged women to take up employment in her enterprise. She ensures that they feel safe and there is a family-like atmosphere.
Financial literacy for women is an important aspect of their independence, financial and otherwise. Being unaware about one’s finances can lead to a number of problems. You could be more likely to accumulate debt burdens, have poor spending habits, or lack long-term preparation. Financial literacy empowers people, especially women, to make independent decisions.
However, a survey revealed that only a small percentage of women are able to build on and grow their existing wealth. Among those, only about 33 per cent, have the confidence to invest their money as they see fit. Given that women’s roles in the domestic and public sphere are on the rise, these low figures show that financial literacy for women is still not part of mainstream discourse.
Financial literacy and women’s empowerment go hand in hand. Increasing your financial literacy can help you achieve your life and career goals more effectively. Some studies show that women are often unable to leave abusive family situations or marriages due to financial dependency. Even for women who have careers, often their income is seen as just extra income and they are expected to take up additional responsibilities at home as well.
In this day and age, there are ample resources for women who wish to become financially literate. Online resources are abundant for those who wish to educate themselves. At the same, it is a stark reality that women in India may not always have the access to or know-how of the Internet to learn these things by themselves.
In such cases, self-help groups and organisations such as Smile Foundation can step in. Through our Swabhiman projects, we are conducting financial literacy sessions for women in various parts of the country. These sessions enable them to become financially empowered and help women take charge of their own destiny.
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