Sabari, a mother of six from Jharkhand, was hopelessly trapped in a cycle of debt. Her husband, a daily wage worker, spent most of his earnings on alcohol. Though Sabari herself had a job as a Krishi Mitra (a Government-appointed agricultural counsellor at the village-level), her monthly income of INR 5000 was never enough to cover the household expenses. This left her with just one option: borrowing from the local moneylender (sahukar) whenever the need arose.
This is a common story across India — and indeed, around the world — where the poorest are often the worst affected by the ‘debt trap’. People from the bottom of the pyramid hardly ever have access to banks or financial institutions. They have limited earnings, little or no savings, and no assets that can be used as collaterals. Thus, they are forced to borrow from private moneylenders, who have a tendency to charge extremely high interest rates. The dependence on such loans grows in times of crisis, such as the Covid-19 pandemic. Failure to repay adds to the borrowers’ existing problems, often subjecting them to harassment, bullying, threats, or even worse.
Is there a way out?
For Sabari, the answer came through a financial literacy programme that trained her to manage her money better and take the right steps to achieve financial stability. By applying the learning imparted in the training sessions, she was gradually able to free herself and her family from their dependence on the sahukar. The name of the programme: Jaadu Ginni Ka (literally, the magic of the ‘guinea’- the name of a traditional gold coin, now seen as a symbol for a unit of money).
Through this unique initiative, Vodafone India Foundation and Learning Links Foundation are teaching the essentials of financial management to youth, the urban poor, micro-entrepreneurs, farmers, artisans, rural women and housewives across the country. Its specially designed curriculum is available in 10 different languages. The course material uses simple vocabulary and relatable, day-to-day examples to explain basic financial concepts like income, expenditure, inflation, investment, banking, loans, insurance, investment, budgeting, mobile banking and Government welfare schemes. The method of instruction employs videos, pictures, charts, puzzles, card games, group discussions, Q-and-A and reflective journaling. A free mobile app ‘SamVaad’ also makes the content available to users.
Why financial literacy?
Findings from a pan-India survey in 2018-19 revealed that only 27 percent of the respondents were financially literate. The study, titled Financial Literacy and Inclusion in India, was carried out by National Centre for Financial Education (NCFE). It found that the financial literacy rate was 24 percent in rural areas and 33 percent in urban areas. 21 percent of the women and 29 percent of the men were financially literate. In general, educational and income levels showed a direct correlation to financial literacy.
A financially literate person has basic competences linked to earning, spending, budgeting, borrowing, saving, and using financial services such as banking, insurance and money transfers. Financial literacy involves a mix of awareness, information, skill, mindset and actions, through which an individual can take good financial decisions and, in due course, attain financial security. It is important for achieving financial inclusion, which in turn is crucial for empowering individuals, as well as strengthening the overall financial system. Financial literacy and inclusion together can encourage general economic growth and the achievement of larger development goals.
The ‘Jaadu Ginni Ka’ Value Chain
Jaadu Ginni Ka creates a value chain that can spread awareness about financial literacy across communities. This enables rapid scaling-up of the benefits of the programme. For example, Rinky, a Community Resource Person from Odisha, has learnt about savings, investments and financial record-keeping by attending the programme. This has helped her to manage her own household finances better and recover from past setbacks caused by poor investments. In fact, Rinky has also started using the SamVaad app to teach other women in her village. Bidyabati, a participant in Rinky’s training session, has started saving regular sums in a bank account and has invested in a Government-backed scheme to secure her daughter’s future. Similarly, Madan Lal from Rajasthan and Vidhyak from Jharkhand are using the learning from the programme to run their own small businesses more efficiently. At the same time, they are teaching and encouraging their customers and neighbours to adopt modern financial practices. The program has already benefited lakhs of youth and adults across 16 States of India.
Financial literacy is the first step on the road to financial freedom. A financial literacy programme like Jaadu Ginni Ka helps in bridging the gap between the mainstream and marginalized sections of society. Its ultimate aim is to empower people and bring sustainable change that leads to financial security and eventually prosperity.
Learn more about the program at www.jaaduginnika.in