Empowerment with Financial Services  
Madrasi-ni-Chali, in India's western state Gujrat, is the home of 37-year-old Kasturiben who is now the ‘leader’ of Madrasi-ni-Chali’s Community Based Organisation (CBO). Kasturiben is a second generation resident of Madrasi-ni-Chali. Since her family converses in Tamil and most of the residents of this community are descendants from Madras in the south, Kasturiben seldom felt the need to be familiarized with Gujarati. As a CBO leader, however, she found that she had to overcome the dual handicaps of illiteracy and lack of fluency in Gujarati to perform her duties.
With the help of CHF International's mobilization and capacity building activities, implemented in partnership with SEWA (India's Self-Employed Women's Association) Kasturiben has learned to write her name and read numbers in Gujarati. She has also helped motivate other women in her community increase awareness-generating activities and collect contributions towards their share of the costs of basic services.
In addition to working with a tutor to improve her proficiency in Gujarati and allocating time each day for CBO-related work, Kasturiben is also training herself to become a SEWA Bank Saathi (similar to an ‘agent’ responsible to promote bank services). Once her training period is over, she will be able to independently handle bank chores like cash collections and issuing of receipts. While Kasturiben is not compensated during the training period, as an independent Bank Saathi, Kasturiben's monthly income will reach Rs. 3,000-5,000.
Kasturiben is a just one more example of how the use of financial services available through SEWA Bank is empowering women all over the country. In addition to a savings account, she has borrowed three home-improvement loans ranging from Rs. 10,000 to 15,000 for her three houses. The first two loans have been repaid. Currently, after meeting all her expenses and payments on installments, she saves about Rs. 500 each month.
Effective mobilization has empowered this poor, illiterate woman not merely to become an effective community leader, but also to chart a new career path for herself.
“Now the future looks bright! After a long dark period of great suffering and misery, we look forward to happy days!” said Kasturiben. “Days when our women will not have to go out early in the morning in search of water and return by afternoon with a day’s supply of water, days when we will not be humiliated by neighboring societies by begging for water, days when we can use our individual toilets in dignity.”
  Copyright@ 2009 India Women Welfare Foundation